Chronic pancreatitis is inflammation of the pancreas that does not heal but worsens over time. When you have chronic pancreatitis, your digestive enzymes begin to digest the pancreas itself. The pancreas is a small gland behind the stomach that secretes digestive juices into the small intestine. Eventually, chronic pancreatitis can damage a person’s digestive system and ability to make pancreatic hormones.
Some common causes of chronic pancreatitis are, but not limited to:
- Family history
- Autoimmune diseases
- A blocked pancreatic duct
- A genetic mutation such as mutations of the cystic fibrosis
Chronic pancreatitis, if unmanaged, can lead to:
- Diabetes- Chronic pancreatitis causes damage to the insulin-producing cells resulting in diabetes, a chronic condition where there is an abnormally high level of sugar in the blood.
- Pancreatic Cancer- If you have chronic pancreatitis, you are at an increased risk of developing pancreatic cancer by two to three
- Malnutrition- Chronic pancreatitis can cause your pancreas to produce fewer enzymes that are needed to break down and process nutrients from your Overtime, this may lead to malnutrition and significant weight loss.
Although there are many complications that may arise if you are living with chronic pancreatitis, the disease is treatable if caught in time. For chronic pancreatitis the treatments can be a hospital visit to treat dehydration, pain medication and a lifestyle change to a low-fat diet.
According to the type of pancreatitis that you have, other surgeries may be required.
One of the worst symptoms of pancreatitis is the severe abdominal pain. Currently, the only remedy for this is pain medication. In order to better understand and treat this pain more research needs to be done. The goal is to improve the quality of life and the risk of complications when living with pancreatitis.
Sources: MedlinePlus, Pancreatic Cancer Action, National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases, National Pancreatitis foundation