What is Pancreatitis?

Pancreatitis is a medical condition characterized by inflammation of the pancreas. It presents in two forms: acute and chronic, each with distinct features and implications.

Acute Pancreatitis: A Sudden Onset

Acute pancreatitis manifests as a rapid inflammation, causing significant tissue damage in the pancreas. Its hallmark symptom is intense abdominal pain that often extends to the back and persists for two to three days. Accompanying symptoms include nausea, vomiting, and fever. Diagnosis involves a thorough patient history review, physical examination, and specific laboratory tests, particularly amylase and lipase. X-ray computed tomography is also utilized for an accurate assessment.

Chronic Pancreatitis: The Long-Term Condition

When pancreatitis fails to heal and progressively worsens, it becomes chronic. Often linked to prolonged alcohol consumption, its symptoms differ slightly from the acute form. Patients might experience recurring or persistent abdominal pain, discolored or fatty stools, and unexplained weight loss. Diagnosis follows a similar path as acute pancreatitis, with additional ultrasound examinations to rule out other causes like gallstones.

Identifying Pancreatitis Risk Factors

Key risk factors for developing pancreatitis include gallstone blockages in the pancreatic duct and alcoholism. Moreover, individuals under 35 with pancreatitis should consider genetic testing since mutations in the PRSS1, CFTR, or SPINK1 genes are associated with a 25% risk of developing the condition.

Effective Treatment Strategies

Treating pancreatitis involves various strategies. These include moderating food and drink intake to lessen pancreatic strain, intravenous fluids for hydration and balance, pain management medication, and abstaining from alcohol. In cases where gallstones trigger the condition, gallbladder removal surgery may be advised.