Pancreas Inflammation – Acute Pancreatitis , Chronic Pancreatitis


If your pancreas doesn’t make insulin and pass it into the blood stream, you can develop diabetes. But there are other serious diseases of the pancreas, of which the most important are inflammation, or pancreatitis, cystic fibrosis, and cancer.

Inflammation of the Pancreas
The pancreas can become inflamed. That means that it swells, causes pain, and may not work effectively. This can happen suddenly — acute pancreatitis — but settle down completely in a short time, or it may slowly get worse — chronic pancreatitis. If this happens the tissues and cells will fail to do their job of producing the enzymes that help your digestion.

Acute Pancreatitis
A short, sudden attack of pain is often caused by gallstones passing down the bile duct. If this happens again and again, the gallbladder can be removed and the bile duct cleared of stones — and that should clear it.

Sometimes alcohol is the cause, usually in someone who is a heavy drinker. But the attack may not particularly be related to a binge. Acute pancreatitis is painful, and you usually go to hospital where you are given strong painkillers and treated for any complications.

Chronic Pancreatitis
Chronic — or persistent — pancreatitis is seen in people who are alcoholics, but it can occur for no clear reason. The pain in the abdomen and the backache may be so bad that you drink even more alcohol to try to deaden it. People with painful chronic pancreatitis sometimes become addicted to narcotic drugs used for pain relief, and suicides have also occurred. Because digestive enzymes are not produced you lose weight and have diarrhea.

It is possible to take tablets or capsules with food to help your digestion. In the worst types of chronic pancreatitis part or all of the pancreas can be removed and this should cure the symptoms. However, that will cause other problems like diabetes and an even worse shortage of digestive enzymes. Though quite a few people die after this operation, people are usually so very unwell, and their life is such a torment, that they are willing to take the risk of operation to improve their quality of life.

About 5000 people each year in Britain develop cancer of the pancreas and it is gradually getting commoner. Because it is very difficult to diagnose this cancer early enough to cure it or even to treat it at all, it is almost always a fatal disease. We do not yet know how we can prevent this cancer of the pancreas from developing.

Pancreas disorders

  • – Diabetes (insulin imbalance)
  • – Acute pancreatitis (gallstones and alcohol)
  • – Chronic pancreatitis (usually alcohol)
  • – Cancer (getting commoner)