Pancreatitis is an inflammation of the pancreas. The pancreas is a gland that carries out a critically vital function in the human body’s digestive process. This organ is located in the upper region of the abdomen behind the stomach. The two main substances produced by the pancreas are the digestive juices and digestive hormones. Although it is rarely found in children, pancreatitis can affect individuals of all ages regardless of gender.
Causes of Pancreatitis
There are several factors that may lead to the inflammation of the pancreas. After inflammation, swelling of the gland and surrounding blood vessels, as well as bleeding, swelling, and gland damage occur. This causes the digestive juices to become trapped, and subsequently commence deterioration of the pancreas. The continuation of this damage may inhibit the normal functioning of the gland.
Types Of Pancreatitis
The two broad categories of pancreatitis are acute pancreatitis and chronic pancreatitis. Acute pancreatitis may progress into chronic pancreatitis, which is a more severe ailment. Pancreatitis which is described as acute, is usually new, or short-term while pancreatitis which is described as chronic, is ongoing or long-term. The two types of the ailment can present serious complications, and be very severe or even fatal.
Scarring of the pancreas which occurs during acute pancreatitis is irreversible, and the gland’s deterioration intensifies with time.
Pancreatitis symptoms are categorized based on the type of pancreatitis being experienced.
Acute Pancreatitis Symptoms
Pain is the most popular indication of acute pancreatitis. Almost all individuals diagnosed with this illness experience pain. This pain is normally located in the upper mid section, or the upper left section of the abdomen. Many patients describe the pain as one that seems to spread from the front of the abdomen to the back.
The pain associated with acute pancreatitis may emerge suddenly, or gradually intensify. When the pain is sudden the situation is very critical.
The pain normally starts or worsens after eating, and may last a few days. Some persons may find that the pain intensifies when they lie on their backs. Another symptom of acute pancreatitis is feeling very sick. This includes vomiting, fever and chills, a swollen, tender abdomen, a rapid heartbeat, which may be caused by the pain and fever.
Serious cases with infection, and bleeding may lead to the patient having a low blood pressure, and becoming dehydrated. In addition, the following acute pancreatitis symptoms may occur; headache, fatigue, confusion and lack of focus, lethargy and irritability.
Extremely low blood pressure may trigger a dangerous condition known as circulatory shock.
Chronic Pancreatitis Symptoms
Unlike acute pancreatitis, chronic pancreatitis does not normally present pain, as a major symptom. Pain may however be experienced by some persons who have chronic pancreatitis. When pain occurs in chronic pancreatitis, it is usually continuous, and can be disabling. This pain however tends to diminish as the condition worsens. When this happens extreme caution should be taken, as it signals that the pancreas is no longer functioning.
Other chronic pancreatitis symptoms are associated with long-term complications triggered by the condition. Some of these are: diabetes, which is the inability to make insulin, weight loss and malnutrition, caused by the inability to digest food, anemia or low blood count, and jaundice or liver problems.