Pancreas is small organ which is tucked behind the stomach in the upper abdomen. Pancreas has the twin functions of producing Pancreatic Juice which helps in digestion and also producing insulin which helps in sugar burning in the cells. Pancreatitis is inflammation of the pancreas caused mostly by excessive alcohol consumption. There are other reasons also behind the inflammation of the pancreas. Pancreatitis can be of two types - Acute or Chronic.
Acute Pancreatitis happens all of a sudden and the patient's life is in danger if proper treatment is not provided in time. The symptoms of acute pancreatitis are severe pain in the upper abdomen radiating to the back, pain increasing after eating food, fever, rapid pulse, nausea, vomiting, tender abdomen etc.
Chronic Pancreatitis develops over several years. The symptoms of chronic pancreatitis are pain in the upper abdomen, weight loss, oily and smell stools.
Pancreatitis can be caused by excessive alcohol consumption, abdominal surgery, gallstones, high calcium levels, high triglycerides, obesity, pancreatic cancer etc. A procedure called ERCP which is done to remove stones from the Common Bile Duct can also cause pancreatitis.
People who consume more than 4-5 drinks everyday, smokers, obese and those having family history of pancreatitis are at a greater risk of having the disease.
Pancreatitis can have serious complications like :
Pseudocyst - Cyst filled with fluid may be formed in the pancreas and when these cysts rupture they may cause internal bleeding and infection.
Kidney Failure - Acute pancreatitis may result in kidney failure which may require dialysis.
Diabetes - Since one of the function of the pancreas is to produce insulin, inflammation of the pancreas can affect the production of insulin leading to Diabetes.
Diagnosis - The diagnosis of pancreatitis can be done through:
Blood Tests - Serum Lipase and Serum Amylase are two of the tests which are done. Higher levels of Serum Amylase is a good indicator of Acute Pancreatits.
Ultrasound of the Abdomen is a very good basic test to see any signs of inflammation in the pancreas and collection of fluid in the abdomen.
CT Scan of the abdomen will give very accurate information about the presence of gall stones and the extent of inflammation in the pancreas.
MRI of the abdomen - MRCP test is the gold standard for diagnosing any disease of the pancreas, gall bladder and common bile duct.
Patients of acute pancreatitis should be immediately rushed to a hospital which is not only equipped with diagnostic modalities like Ultrasound, CT Scan, MRI but also has a team of GI specialists who are trained in handling such emergencies. If the Serum Amylase levels are very high it is a sign of acute pancreatits and the patient is put on a treatment plan after admission to dilute the Pancreatic enzymes. One of the treatment method is to keep the patient in fasting for 2 days so that the pancreas can start to recover. Once the inflammation in the pancreas is controlled, the patient is given clear liquid and non spicy soft fat free food. When you are kept in fasting, you would be given IV Fluids to keep you hydrated.
Patient who have suffered an attack of Acute Pancreatits due to drinking alcohol are strictly advised to stay away from alcohol. Even one drink of alcohol can bring such an attack again. The pancreas will recover over a long period of time during which not even a single drop of alcohol should go into the body. The gains achieved over 1-2 years of quitting alochol can be lost in just 1-2 days of drinking again. Patients of pancreatitis should quit alcohol for ever.
If gallstones have caused pancreatic attack, then laparoscopic removal of gall bladder can help the patient. Sometimes surgery on the pancreas might be needed to drain the fluid or remove the diseased tissue.
Going on a complete raw diet has been found to be of great help for the patients of acute or chronic pancreatitis.
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