Pancreatitis is the inflammation of the pancreas, a small organ in the upper abdomen attached to the duct which drains bile from the gall bladder into the GI tract. When the pancreas gets inflamed for any number of reasons, pain and other symptoms can occur.
Causes of Pancreatitis
There are two types of this condition; acute and chronic pancreatitis. Acute pancreatitis occurs when there is inflammation of the pancreas causing acute pain in the upper abdomen, which can be severe. There are many causes of acute pancreatitis but in the US, gallstones and alcohol are the main causes. Gallstones can lead to the development of the pancreatitis when they create a blockage of both the bile duct and pancreas duct. Other causes include medication reactions, infections, trauma, Cystic Fibrosis, genetics (family history), and high levels of triglycerides or calcium.
Chronic pancreatitis means that there is scarring and ongoing inflammation of the pancreas. This typically happens after several episodes of acute pancreatitis, though can be diagnosed without a known previous history of acute pancreatitis. Chronic pancreatitis can lead to daily abdominal pain, diarrhea, and weight loss.
If abdominal pain doesn't seem to go away or steadily worsens, you should contact your primary care provider for evaluation. In some instances severe pain may require a trip to the emergency room for evaluation. A gastroenterologist is usually consulted when a patient presents with these symptoms.
Common symptoms include:
• Abdominal pain
• Yellowing of the skin
How a Gastroenterologist Can Assist You
Lab tests looking at pancreatic enzymes can be an indicator of whether or not a patient has acute pancreatitis. Other imaging tests such as ultrasounds and x-rays can look for gallstones in the gallbladder and a CT scan will often show inflammation around the pancreas. After the diagnosis is made (if applicable), the cause should be identified so the appropriate treatment can be started.
Pancreatitis is almost always quite painful but can also be life-threatening in severe cases and so it’s important that signs of pancreatitis are not ignored.
If you or your family have concerns about pancreatitis or other digestive health concerns, contact our office to make an appointment. Our gastroenterologists, Nurse Practitioners and Physician assistants offer services in Wausau, Stevens Point, Woodruff, Eagle River, Rhinelander and Antigo. Call GI Associates at (877) 442-7762.