What is pancreatitis?

Pancreatitis is inflammation of the pancreas, in which the enzymes secreted by it become active and become the cause of its damage.

The pancreas is located in the upper abdomen behind the stomach and performs important functions in digestion. It is a gland secreting two main types of substances – digestive juices and digestive hormones.

Digestive juice contains enzymes and sodium bicarbonate. They pass through a small tube called the duct of Wirsung, which connects the pancreas to the beginning of the small intestine, or duodenum.

There, enzymes help to break down proteins and fats from food, which allows their absorption. Sodium bicarbonate neutralizes stomach acid. Digestive hormones, mainly insulin and glucagon, are released into the bloodstream. They control blood sugar levels in the body, which is the main source of energy.

Inflammation of the pancreas can have different causes. Once the gland becomes inflamed, the condition can progress to swelling of the gland and also of the surrounding blood vessels. This can result in bleeding, infection and damage to the gland. The Wirsung canal can become difficult to pass and even become blocked. Enzymes are activated inside it and this leads to the start of a process of digestion of the gland.

Pancreatitis can be acute or chronic. The acute form usually occurs soon after the injury has begun. Attacks are usually mild, but in 20% of cases they can be very severe.

An acute pancreatic attack lasts a short time and usually resolves completely as pancreatic function fully resumes. Some people have a single attack, while others may have multiple attacks. But the pancreas always returns to its usual state.

Chronic pancreatitis begins as an acute one. If the pancreas is damaged during an attack, it cannot fully restore function. The damage to the gland continues and it gradually loses its functions.

What are the symptoms of pancreatitis?

In the acute form of the disease, the most common symptom is pain. In almost all cases of acute inflammation of the pancreas, the affected person experiences pain. The pain may come on suddenly or start as a mild ache and get worse.

The pain is usually centered in the upper middle or upper left part of the abdomen. The pain often starts or worsens after eating. The pain usually lasts for several days.

With chronic pancreatitis, most people do not experience pain. Those who have pain, it is constant and may disappear. But precisely the cessation of pain in most cases is a sign that the condition is worsening and the pancreas has stopped functioning.

Treatment of pancreatitis

In the acute form of the disease, treatment is aimed at relieving symptoms and strengthening the body so that the pancreas can restore its function.

Most people with an attack of the acute form of the disease are hospitalized. An oxygen mask is placed on those who cannot breathe. No food or liquids are given to the hospitalized for several days, they are only given intravenously.

This is how the digestive system is given a “rest”. In some cases, the placement of a nasogastric tube may be necessary. This is a thin, flexible tube that is inserted through the nose, down to the stomach to suck out gastric juices. This suction provides additional intestinal rest and allows the pancreas to recover more quickly.

If symptoms are mild, those affected could do the following:

  • Stop all alcohol consumption;
  • Go to a liquid diet and consume as broths. These simple, non-digestive foods will limit inflammation of the pancreas;
  • Avoid painkillers such as paracetamol, which stress the liver.

Related Articles

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Back to top button