Pancreatitis


Definition: Pancreatitis is a medical condition that occurs when pancreatic enzymes begin digesting pancreatic tissue. This causes inflammation to the pancreas.


Acute Pancreatitis: Sudden inflammation of the pancreas usually lasting for 4-6 days.

Chronic Pancreatitis: Long-standing inflammation of the pancreas that alters its normal structure and functions.


Where is the Pancreas located in the body?

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What is pancreatitis video:




What is pancreatitis video:


Causes:

Gall Stones:


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Gallstones are the most common cause of acute pancreatitis. "Gallstones, produced in the gallbladder, can block the bile duct, stopping pancreatic enzymes from traveling to the small intestine and forcing them back into the pancreas. The enzymes then begin to irritate the cells of the pancreas, causing the inflammation associated with pancreatitis." -Mayo Clinic Website

If enzymes cannot travel from the pancreas to the small intestine, digestion and absorption are greatly hindered and malnutrition can ensue. Furthermore, as the pancreas becomes inflamed due to the excess enzymes, its ability to continue to produce digestive enzymes begins to decline as well.

Alcoholism is another frequent cause of pancreatitis. In fact, it is the most common cause of chronic (long term) pancreatitis. Alcohol triggers the pancreas to inflame by stimulating the pancreas to produce fatty acids that destroy pancreatic cells. Patients with pancreatitis must stop drinking. Those with chronic pancreatitis that choose to continue using alcohol can cut their life expectancy by as much as 20 years.

Trauma causes pancreatitis by injuring or damaging the tissue to the pancreas. This will lead to inflammation. Ductal obstruction can also be caused by trauma to the pancreas.

Autoimmune diseases and disorders: this is when the body attacks its own pancreas. Not all autoimmune diseases will result in pancreatitis. However,
Sjörgren's Syndrome and Primary Biliary Cirrhosis usually do.

Other Less Common Causes Inculde: Hyperparathyroidism (which leads to high levels of calcium circulating in the blood), Scorpion stings, High triglycerides, Viruses, Bacteria, Fungi, Parasites

Unknown: About 1 in every 10 diagnosed cases of pancreatitis, no specific cause can be identified.

Signs and Symptoms:

  • Mild to severe pain in the abdominal area and back
  • Edema
  • Pain may worsen after eating food
  • Nausea and Vomiting
  • Abdominal distention
  • Hypotension (low blood pressure), shortness of breath and a low urine output with severe complications

Medical Treatment:

Acute Pancreatitis:
  • Controlling pain through medication and rest
  • Treat chemical dependency, if that is the cause of pancreatitis
  • Removing gallstones that can be associated with pancreatitis
  • Drain fluid from the pancreatic ducts with a minimally invasive stent surgery

Chronic Pancreatitis:
  • Chemical dependency treatment is the most important step if pancreatitis is alcohol-related
  • Pain relief drugs
  • Stents to drain blocked pancreatic ducts
  • Shock wave lithotripsy to breakdown pancreatic stones
  • Surgery
  • Islet cell transplantation
  • Enzyme therapy
  • Treatment of diabetes, if that develops

Dietary Treatment:

  • Avoid alcohol consumption
  • Eat foods high in B-vitamins and iron (whole grains, spinach, kale)
  • Food with antioxidants (blueberries, cherries, tomatoes, squash and bell peppers)
  • Eat fewer red meats and more lean meats, cold water fish, tofu, or beans for protein
  • Eliminate trans-fatty acids
  • Avoid coffee and tobacco
  • Drink 6-8 glasses of water a day

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Recent Research Concerning Pancreatitis:

New biomarkers (namely pancreatic stellate cells) are being considered as a means of early diagnostic criteria. If these markers are able to help physicians see the potential for pancreatitis development sooner, treatment and lifestyle changes can go into effect faster. Furthermore, could be a way for health professionals to catch pancreatitis before it leads to pancreatic cancer, the fourth most fatal cancer in the United States. Finally, this research could even be used to further examine pathways needed to treat pancreatitis and other developed disorders of the pancreas. Read the research for yourself at:
http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1111/j.1440-1746.2009.06071.x/full

The care of patients with pancreatitis can occasionally fall to the intensive care wards of hospitals worldwide. Prior to this study, enteral nutrition was the standard practice of care for those initially admitted with pancreatitis. However, this study aimed to show the necessity of parenteral nutrition as the first pathway of nutrition. Read the article at:
http://journals.lww.com/ccmjournal/Abstract/2011/03000/Nutritional_therapy_in_patients_with_acute.6.aspx

Smoking has been linked to numerous diseases, and now researchers believe that cigarette smoking could aggravate pancreatitis in both acute and chronic patients, too. They believe the effects are dependent on the amount of nicotine used and how often. The article also speaks on how cigarette smoking can further alcohol's effects on the pancreas as well. Read it here:
http://content.karger.com/ProdukteDB/produkte.asp?Doi=332196

Resources:


http://www.mayoclinic.org/pancreatitis/treatment.html
http://www.umm.edu/altmed/articles/pancreatitis-000122.htm
http://www.emedicinehealth.com/pancreatitis/page2_em.htm#Pancreatitis%20Causes
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pancreatitis
www.mayoclinic.com/health/pancreatitis/DS00371/DSECTION=causes
http://www.doctortipster.com/2657-chronic-pancreatitis-symptoms-diagnosis-and-treatment.html
http://www.patient.co.uk/health/Pancreatitis-Acute.htm
http://www.uchospitals.edu/online-library/content=CDR62678
http://www.embraceliving.net/pancreatic-cancer-symptoms-diagnosis-and-treatment.html
http://www.tju.edu/gi/education/pdfs/pancreatitis.pdf