When inflammation of the pancreas, or acute pancreatitis doesn’t heal, or improve, but rather gets worse over time, and causes permanent damage, the resulting condition is called chronic pancreatitis. The pancreas is an enzyme, and hormone producing organ which can be found behind the stomach. The enzymes created by the pancreas are necessary for the digestion of food. Persons who have a higher risk of having the illness, are individuals in the 30-40 age group. Women are however less likely to have this illness.
Chronic Pancreatitis Causes
Acute pancreatitis, which is the ailment that precedes chronic pancreatitis tends to develop into the more serious condition, when scarring, and inflammation of the organ, inhibits its ability to produce enzymes. The result is that the body’s ability to digest fat, and other important food substances is restricted. Diabetes may be triggered by damage to parts of the pancreas, that function by making insulin.
Chronic pancreatitis is often triggered by consistent alcohol abuse, over the course of years. Continuous, or repetitive bouts of acute pancreatitis often lead to chronic pancreatitis. Experts speculate, that at times, genes may play a role in determining who gets the ailment, however sometimes the cause is undetermined.
Conditions Associated With Chronic Pancreatitis
There are several conditions that are associated with chronic pancreatitis. Conditions known as autoimmune problems, which occur when the body is attacked by the immune system tend to be linked with the ailment. Pancreatic duct blockage, or bile duct blockage, also number among the complications that come with the condition.
Complications of cystic fibrosis, as well as, hypertriglyceridemia, a condition in which the blood has high levels of fat called triglycerides, are also linked to chronic pancreatitis.
Other conditions associated with the ailment are; hyperparathyroidism, and the use of some drugs (particularly estrogen, corticosteroids, thiazide diuretics, and azathioprine).
Symptoms of Chronic Pancreatitis
Since this disease can be life threatening it is important to be aware of the warning signs. One such sign is pain in the abdomen. The abdominal pain experienced with chronic pancreatitis, tends to be located, or more intense in the upper abdominal area. The pain may be intensified with eating, and may last for days, gradually getting more intense. Chronic pancreatitis pain may even be felt in the back. Sometimes the abdominal pain can be eased by adjusting one’s position such as by sitting up, or leaning forward.
Chronic weight loss, that defy eating habits, digestive problems, stools that are fatty or oily, or pale or clay colored; or nausea, diarrhea, and vomiting are all signs of chronic pancreatitis.
The worsening of the condition is accompanied by an intensifying of the symptoms, which at times may seem similar to those of pancreatic cancer.
Diagnosis of Chronic Pancreatitis
In order to determine whether a patient is suffering from chronic pancreatitis a medical practitioner may order several tests. These include, but are not limited to; fecal fat test, serum amylase, serum lipase, abdominal CT scan, and abdominal ultrasound.
Preventing Chronic Pancreatitis
Identifying the factors triggering acute pancreatitis, and applying effective treatment may help in avoiding the occurrence of chronic pancreatitis. Additionally limiting, or eliminating one’s intake of alcohol may help in preventing the condition.