What is chronic pancreatitis?
Pancreatitis is inflammation of your pancreas. Your pancreas is an organ in your upper belly that makes juices that help you digest food. Your pancreas also makes insulin, which helps control your blood sugar.
Chronic means that a problem goes on over a long period of time. In chronic pancreatitis, you have scar tissue in your pancreas that keeps causing problems. Pancreatitis that starts suddenly is called acute pancreatitis What is acute pancreatitis? Pancreatitis is inflammation (swelling) of your pancreas. Your pancreas is an organ in your upper belly that makes juices that help you digest food. Your pancreas also makes insulin, which helps... read more . Getting acute pancreatitis over and over again can cause chronic pancreatitis.
Chronic pancreatitis causes belly pain
The pain may be constant or may come and go
The pancreas stops making juices that help you digest your food
Sometimes chronic pancreatitis damages cells that make insulin and you get diabetes Diabetes Diabetes is a disease in which your blood sugar (glucose) levels are too high. You get diabetes if your body's normal way of controlling blood sugar isn't working right. There are 2 types of... read more
Treatment includes changing your diet, taking special medicines to help digest food, avoiding alcohol, and taking drugs to relieve the pain
What causes chronic pancreatitis?
Causes of chronic pancreatitis include:
Having a gene (physical trait you inherit from a parent) for certain disorders, such as cystic fibrosis Cystic Fibrosis Cystic fibrosis is a disease people are born with. It makes body fluids thick and sticky. These sticky fluids clog up the lungs, digestive system, and many other organs. Children have many health... read more , hereditary pancreatitis, or autoimmune pancreatitis
Sometimes there's no clear cause.
What are the symptoms of chronic pancreatitis?
The main symptom is:
Pain in your upper belly (the area below your breastbone)
The pain may follow one of several patterns:
Pain that goes away or gets better but keeps coming back
Severe pain that lasts for several hours or up to several days
You may also have other symptoms such as:
Bulky, unusually stinky, light-colored stool
Weight loss and malnutrition
How can doctors tell if I have chronic pancreatitis?
Doctors do certain tests, such as:
Stool tests to see if you're absorbing your food
X-rays of your belly
MRCP (a special kind of MRI Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) MRI is a test that uses a machine with a powerful magnet to make pictures of the inside of your body. A computer records changes in the magnetic field around your body. The computer then uses... read more that lets your doctor see your liver, gallbladder, bile ducts, pancreas, or pancreatic duct)
Endoscopic ultrasound (a special kind of ultrasound using a long tube that's passed through your mouth and down into your intestine)
How do doctors treat chronic pancreatitis?
Doctors treat pain caused by chronic pancreatitis by:
Asking you to fast, which means not eating or drinking for a certain amount of time to rest your pancreas and intestine
Giving you fluids in a vein
Giving you pain medicine
People with severe pancreatitis may have to stay in the hospital.
Doctors treat digestive problems caused by pancreatitis by having you:
Eat 4 to 5 low-fat meals a day
Take pancreatic enzyme extracts to help you digest food better
Sometimes, take certain vitamins (A, D, E, and K)
Doctors will have you avoid alcohol, stop smoking, and eat less fat in your diet.
You may need treatment for problems caused by your chronic pancreatitis, such as medicine or insulin for diabetes.
Doctors may do surgery to treat your chronic pancreatitis if you have severe pain and other treatments don’t help you. They may remove some of the diseased pancreas, open up the pancreatic duct, or cut nerves near the pancreas to relieve the pain.