Pancreatitis can be painful

Pancreatitis can be painful. To understand the problem, one must know what the pancreas does. The pancreas is a gland organ located behind the stomach and is vital to the digestive tract and overall health of the body. The functions of the Pancreas include releasing digestive enzymes and producing insulin and glucagon to regulate blood sugar. The pancreas can become diseased due to diet, alcohol consumption, or other factors.

When the pancreas becomes diseased or infected, it can lead to serious conditions which must be treated. Pancreatic damage happens when the digestive enzymes are activated before they are released into the small intestine and begin attacking the pancreas.

The common types of Pancreatitis are Chronic and Acute Pancreatitis. Heavy alcohol consumption has been linked with both so it is important to avoid alcohol.

  • Acute: Acute Pancreatitis comes on quickly and can be treated with antibiotics. A common cause is a gallstone block, also known as Gallstone Pancreatitis. It may range from mild discomfort to a severe, life-threatening illness. Most people with Acute Pancreatitis recover completely after getting the right treatment.
  • Chronic: Chronic Pancreatitis is long-lasting inflammation of the Pancreas that has to be managed over time. It most often happens after an episode of Acute Pancreatitis. Heavy alcohol drinking is another big cause. Damage to the Pancreas from heavy alcohol use may not cause symptoms for many years, but then the person may suddenly develop severe Pancreatitis symptoms.

Symptoms

Acute:

  • Upper abdominal pain that radiates into the back
  • Swollen abdomen
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Fever
  • Increased heart rate

Chronic:

  • Constant, disabling pain in the upper abdomen that radiates to the back
  • Weight loss
  • Onset of Diabetes

Diagnosis

Acute: To diagnose Acute Pancreatitis, Dr. Singh, Dr. Rashbaum, Dr. Nitin Parikh, Dr. Sumana Moole, Dr. Long B. Nguyen, Tammi D’Elena, PA-C; and Vanessa T. Dang, MSN, APRN;  will conduct several tests to measure blood enzymes. High levels of these enzymes will strongly suggest Acute Pancreatitis. Additional tests may include:

  • Pancreatic Function Test
  • Glucose Tolerance Test
  • Ultrasound, CT scan, or MRI
  • Diagnostic ERCP
  • Biopsy

Chronic: In more advanced stages of the disease, blood, urine, and stool tests are used to confirm the chronic diagnosis.

Treatment

  • Acute: Patients with the acute form are typically treated with IV fluids and pain medications in the hospital. For some patients, the Pancreatitis can be severe and they may need to be admitted to an intensive care unit (ICU). An acute attack of Pancreatitis caused by Gallstones may require removal of the gallbladder or surgery of the bile duct. After the gallstones are removed and the inflammation goes away, the Pancreas usually returns to normal.
  • Chronic: Patients with the chronic form can be difficult to treat. Doctors will try to relieve a patient’s pain and improve nutritional problems. Patients are generally given Pancreatic enzymes and may need insulin. A low-fat diet can also help. Surgery may be done in some cases to help restore drainage of Pancreatic enzymes or hormones, treat blockages of the Pancreatic duct, or reduce the frequency of attacks.

Board certified physicians Dr. Singh, Dr. Rashbaum, Dr. Nitin Parikh, Dr. Sumana Moole, Dr. Long B. Nguyen, Tammi D’Elena, PA-C; and Vanessa T. Dang, MSN, APRN; care for patients in the north Atlanta, GA, area including Johns Creek GA, Cumming GA, and Lawrenceville. The in-house endoscopy suite at Digestive Care Physicians is a Certified facility which has achieved the highest level of accreditation by the Association for Ambulatory Health Care (AAAHC). If you suffer from gastrointestinal problems or suspect you may have pancreatitis, contact us at (770) 227-2222 to schedule an appointment.