A key player in your digestive process is your pancreas, a large gland that produces both digestive juices and insulin. Under normal circumstances, this gland functions quietly and rarely makes itself known, unless there’s a problem like pancreatitis, which can lead to some hard-to-ignore symptoms.
There are two types of pancreatitis — acute and chronic — and between the two, they account for more than 350,000 hospital stays in the United States each year.
In this month’s blog post, board-certified gastroenterologist Dr. Sam Weissman and the team want to focus on some of the more common signs of pancreatitis so you can recognize when you need our help.
A matter of inflammation
Whether acute or chronic, pancreatitis refers to inflammation in your pancreas, which is a gland about the size of your hand that’s located behind your stomach.
This inflammation is typically caused when digestive enzymes damage your pancreas, which can be a short-term problem (acute) or one that’s ongoing and progressive (chronic).
There are many potential causes of pancreatitis, but 80% of cases are linked to one of two things:
- Gallstones, especially in acute pancreatitis
- Alcoholism, which is often the cause of chronic pancreatitis
The balance of cases of pancreatitis are often linked to one of the following:
- Infections and viruses
- Cystic fibrosis
- Injury to your pancreas
- Pancreatic cancer
This list isn’t complete, but it gives you an idea of the many different roads to inflammation in your pancreas.
Signs of pancreatitis
Now let’s get to our primary discussion, which is recognizing the signs of pancreatitis. We’re going to start with acute pancreatitis, as these symptoms come on quickly and can be quite strong, including:
- Upper abdominal pain that spreads to your back
- Fever and chills
- Nausea and vomiting
- Abdominal tenderness
Again, these symptoms can come on quickly and last for several days or more.
With chronic pancreatitis, the symptoms aren’t as severe, but they can become a part of your everyday life, including:
- Pain in your upper abdomen that can spread to your back
- Pain after you eat
- Greasy stools
- Weight loss
- Low-grade nausea
Please note that some people with chronic pancreatitis don’t experience any pain.
Getting help for your pancreatitis
If you suspect that you might have pancreatitis based on what you’ve read here, please come see us. Through lab tests and imaging, we can check your pancreas and take the necessary steps to restore the health of this gland.
From rest and medications to surgery, there are any number of ways we approach pancreatitis, depending on the severity of the problem.
For expert diagnosis and treatment of pancreatitis, please call our Brighton Beach area office in Brooklyn, New York, at 609-793-9375 or request a consultation through this website.