The pancreas is an important organ in your body that, amongst other tasks, is responsible for making hormones, enzymes, and juices that help to break down food for digestion. When it becomes inflamed or swollen and causes severe abdominal pain, it is called pancreatitis.
Pancreatitis can occur due to many reasons, but the two most common causes include gallstones and alcohol abuse. Gallstones can come out of the gallbladder and cause a blockage of flow of the pancreatic juices, which lead to irritation of the pancreas and ultimately severe pain. Alcohol abuse and smoking can also lead to the development of pancreatitis. The diagnosis is of this condition is made with the use of a combination the history of illness, physical exam findings, blood work, and occasionally imaging. The treatment of pancreatitis is individualized to each patient and the severity of illness, but most commonly, patients are treated with intravenous fluids and pain medications. Initially, nothing is given by mouth to eat, but eating is encouraged as pain is improving. Occasionally, nutrition is provided with the help of a feeding tube. The majority of cases improve in a week or so, but some cases can be quite severe. A number of complications can occur after a case of pancreatitis and they are managed by your doctors as they occur. At Great Lakes Gastroenterology, we take an individualized approach to each case and your care is provided specific to your needs.