The pancreas is a very important organ responsible for breaking down food into consumable chunks. Individuals suffering from pancreatitis experience abdominal discomfort, including pain, nausea, and vomiting. But what causes this condition and is it treatable? Read on to learn more.
What Does the Pancreas Do?
The pancreas releases digestive enzymes into the small intestine which facilitate the breakdown of food. The pancreas is also responsible for insulin production, which helps regulate glucose levels in the body.
What Causes Pancreatitis?
Unfortunately, there is no known cause for pancreatitis. In a majority of cases, the condition simply develops over time or due to underlying conditions including cystic fibrosis, hereditary factors, gallstones, and certain medications. Long-term alcohol abuse is also a leading cause of pancreatitis. Pancreatitis often occurs when the cells of the pancreas are damaged and the organ becomes inflamed. There’s no clear reason why alcohol abuse causes pancreatitis but it’s believed that certain molecules found in alcohol interfere with the cells of the pancreas, preventing it from functioning efficiently.
There are two types of pancreatitis – acute and chronic.
Acute pancreatitis often comes on suddenly and abruptly, causing inflammation and discomfort. This condition is often mild and subsides over time. The two main causes of this condition are gallstones and alcohol abuse.
When the inflammation of the pancreas does not subside or improve, it develops into a chronic condition. Chronic pancreatitis actually worsens over time, instead of getting better, leading to permanent, irreversible damage. Both forms of pancreatitis are a result of enzymes attacking the organ and nearby tissues, resulting in pain and discomfort.
How is Pancreatitis Treated?
Treatment for pancreatitis depends on the severity of the condition. Here are several treatment options.
Patients suffering from pancreatitis are often hospitalized for several reasons including diagnosis, cause, and treatment for dehydration. Patients are given fluids intravenously or by mouth if they are able to swallow.
If an infection is present in the pancreas, antibiotics are often prescribed. Pain medication is also used to help ease the discomfort caused by the condition.
Surgery is often used to treat pancreatitis only if the gallbladder was the cause of the condition. If this is the case, doctors may choose to remove the patient’s gallbladder. This surgery is often performed as soon as a diagnosis is made in an effort to reduce complications. If a patient is already suffering from severe symptoms related to pancreatitis, these issues are treated prior to surgery.
Pancreatitis can cause an abscess or build up of fluid in the abdomen which needs draining. This procedure may also involve the removal of damaged or infected tissue in the area. Other complications caused by pancreatitis include blockages in the pancreatic duct. Doctors can use a variety of methods, including x-rays and an upper gastrointestinal endoscopy to clear this blockage.
Because the pancreas is responsible for digestion, a change in diet is often recommended for both acute and chronic pancreatitis sufferers. A low-fat diet rich containing whole grains and fruits and vegetables is best for pancreatitis patients. Avoid foods that are high in fat, fried, and full-fat dairy products. Doctors may also supplement your diet with vitamins and other medication to help improve digestion. Here is a short list of foods you should and shouldn’t eat if you have acute or chronic pancreatitis.
Foods to Avoid:
- Red meat
- Full-dairy desserts
- Fried foods
Foods You Should Eat:
- Egg whites
- Canned tuna
- Lean meat
- Rice and almond milk
Adjusting your diet will help eliminate some of the symptoms caused by pancreatitis. It’s also important to note that pancreatitis can cause diabetes due to the body’s imbalance of insulin.
How Can I Prevent Pancreatitis?
Although there is no clear way to prevent pancreatitis, there are a few steps you can take to lower your risk of developing the disease. Limiting alcohol consumption is the best way to prevent complications of the pancreas. Eating a well-balanced diet, exercising regularly, and maintaining a healthy weight are all added benefits as well. Avoid crash dieting which can negatively impact your liver, causing gallstones and potentially leading to pancreatitis. There is also a link between smoking and acute pancreatitis.
If you suspect that you’re developing either acute or chronic pancreatitis, you need to seek medical attention immediately. Left untreated, chronic pancreatitis can be life threatening. Maintaining a healthy lifestyle is your first line of defense against pancreatic complications. A doctor can help determine if the pain and discomfort you’re feeling is in fact pancreatitis and together, you can create a treatment plan.
Article Submitted By Community Writer