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Quick Facts

Chronic Pancreatitis

By

The Manual's Editorial Staff

Last full review/revision Apr 2020| Content last modified Apr 2020
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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.

The Pancreas

Locating the Pancreas

What causes chronic pancreatitis?

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:

How can doctors tell if I have chronic pancreatitis?

Doctors do certain tests, such as:

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.

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