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Pancreatitis: Types, Symptoms, Causes, & Risks

An organ that sits behind the stomach and next to a body’s small intestine, the pancreas gland has two main functions:

• It aids in the digestion of food
• It releases glucagon and insulin into the body’s bloodstream to help control how food is utilized for energy.

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As such, pancreatitis is a condition where the pancreas suffers from inflammation, and this occurs when digestive enzymes activate prior to their release into the small intestine, essentially attacking the organ.

Types

Pancreatitis takes the form two types. They include:

Acute Pancreatitis: Occurs when the pancreas suffers sudden inflammation over a short period of time. Patients can report mild discomfort, to far more severe pain, and the condition can be fatal. Having said that, a majority of the time patients recover completely from acute pancreatitis when given the correct treatment. At times, severe cases of the illness result in serious tissue damage, bleeding in the gland, cyst formation, and infection. Complications with pancreatitis can also cause harm to other key organs like one’s kidneys, lungs, and heart.

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Chronic Pancreatitis: Unlike acute pancreatitis, chronic pancreatitis is when a patient’s pancreas suffers with long-term inflammation. It tends to occur after a bout of acute pancreatitis, and another major cause is increased alcohol consumption over a long period of time.

Signs and Symptoms

Some symptoms of the two types of pancreatitis include:

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Acute Pancreatitis

• Pain in the upper stomach that circulates to the back. This can be agitated by eating, specifically high-fat foods
• Vomiting and nausea
• Tender and swollen abdomen
• Increased heart rate
• Fever

Chronic Pancreatitis

It’s interesting to note that chronic pancreatitis symptoms are parallel to those of acute, with additional signs of chronic pancreatitis including:

Diarrhea

• Weight loss (due to a lack of food absorption, as the gland is not releasing sufficient enzymes to break food down)
• Diabetes may develop as the cells that produce insulin are damaged

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Causes

For the most part, acute pancreatitis is a result of heavy alcohol consumption or gallstones. In some cases, autoimmune conditions, trauma, infections, medications, surgery, and metabolic disorders can be the root of it. Having said that, for a small percentage of patients, the reason behind acute pancreatitis is unknown.

When it comes to chronic pancreatitis, a majority of patients develop the illness due to long-term alcohol use. Other causes include: hereditary pancreas conditions, high triglycerides, specific medicines uses, cystic fibrosis, and gallstones; however, much like acute, at times, some patients do not know the reasoning behind why they have developed pancreatitis.

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Risks

While the condition can happen to anyone really, below are certain risk factors that enhance the chances of both acute and chronic pancreatitis.
For acute pancreatitis, they include: 

• Increased alcohol consumption
• Gallstones

It’s interesting to note that acute pancreatitis is sometimes the first symptom that pops up for gallstones. At times, gallstones obstruct the pancreatic duct, thus causing acute pancreatitis.

As for chronic pancreatitis, risk factors include:

• Increased alcoholic consumption over an extended period of time
• Cystic fibrosis, and other specific hereditary conditions
• Gallstones
• Illnesses like lupus and high triglycerides

If you have noticed any of the symptoms linked to either acute or chronic pancreatitis, or you feel like you fall into an “at risk” group, then visit your family doctor. They will be able to help diagnose the condition, place you on a proper treatment path, and ease any concerns you may have.

Source: https://www.webmd.com/digestive-disorders/digestive-diseases-pancreatitis#1

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