Pancreatitis: How to Lower Your Risk of Future Attacks
Stomach pain from pancreatitis can feel severe, sharp and come on quickly, or it can feel more like a constant, dull discomfort. Either way, you need to address it by working closely with your doctor and by making important lifestyle changes.
“Early and aggressive treatment of pancreatitis can improve outcomes, prompt an early recovery and limit complications,” says pancreatic specialist Prabhleen Chahal, MD.
What causes pancreatitis?
Pancreatitis occurs when the pancreas — the long organ that sits behind the stomach and next to the small intestine — gets inflamed. The pancreas aids in digestion and helps regulate hormones for sugar and metabolism.
Problems occur when the pancreas releases digestive enzymes too soon and they attack the pancreas itself instead of breaking down the food you eat.
Pancreatitis has two forms: acute and chronic.
Acute cases strike quickly. Symptoms may range from mildly uncomfortable to life-threatening. Mild attacks typically last a few days, Dr. Chahal says.
Moderate to severe attack of pancreatitis may cause:
- Multi organ (kidney, lungs or heart) failure
- Bleeding/clot formation in blood vessels
- Destruction of pancreas (necrosis)
- Formation of inflammatory fluid collection (pseudocyst)
- Malnutrition and failure to thrive
- Slowed down gastrointestinal motility
Chronic pancreatitis, however, is a result of progressive, long-lasting inflammation. It can develop after you have an acute attack. Over time, symptoms may include:
- Upper abdominal pain and bloating
- Nausea and vomiting
- Malabsorptive diarrhea
- Weight loss (because your body isn’t absorbing nutrients properly)
- Deficiency of fat-soluble vitamins like A, D,E and K