What is pancreatitis?

Pancreatitis is an inflammation of the pancreas. The pancreas is a long, flat gland that sits behind the stomach in the upper abdomen. When inflammation occurs suddenly and lasts a few days, it is called acute pancreatitis. Chronic pancreatitis occurs when the inflammation lasts over three months. Acute pancreatitis is rarely treated and will simply go away on its own. However, chronic pancreatitis needs attention and can be severely life-threatening.

What are the symptoms?

Because there are two classifications of pancreatitis (acute and chronic), symptoms may vary. For those suffering from mild inflammation, they may experience symptoms including:

  • Abdominal pain that worsens after a meal
  • Fever
  • Nausea
  • Tenderness when touching the abdomen
  • Upper abdominal pain that may travel to the back
  • Vomiting

For those suffering from chronic pancreatitis, symptoms are similar but more severe and include: 

  • Oily, smelly stools
  • Unexplained weight loss
  • Upper abdominal pain

What are the causes?

Pancreatitis occurs when digestive enzymes become activated while still in the pancreas, causing the cells of the pancreas to become irritated. Multiple conditions that can result in pancreatitis include:

  • Abdominal surgery
  • A family history of pancreatitis
  • Alcoholism
  • Gallstones
  • Infection
  • Injury to the abdomen
  • Pancreatic cancer

In some cases, the cause of the inflammation remains unknown.

How is it treated?

Each physician at Gastroenterology Associates of New Jersey (GANJ) is equipped with treating pancreatic conditions such as pancreatitis. Our specialists set patients on a unique treatment regimen that treats their specific cause. In more severe cases, our experts may refer out to a surgeon if gallbladder surgery or pancreas surgery is a last resort. Pain management, dietary changes, medication, enzymes to improve digestion are just some of the treatment options we offer for this condition. Additionally, if alcoholism is the primary cause, treatment for alcohol dependence will be highly recommended.

For more information on pancreatitis or to schedule an appointment, contact us today.

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