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Pancreatitis

Summary

The pancreas is a large gland behind the stomach and close to the first part of the small intestine. It secretes digestive juices into the small intestine through a tube called the pancreatic duct. The pancreas also releases the hormones insulin and glucagon into the bloodstream.

Pancreatitis is inflammation of the pancreas. It happens when digestive enzymes start digesting the pancreas itself. Pancreatitis can be acute or chronic. Either form is serious and can lead to complications.

Acute pancreatitis occurs suddenly and usually goes away in a few days with treatment. It is often caused by gallstones. Common symptoms are severe pain in the upper abdomen, nausea, and vomiting. Treatment is usually a few days in the hospital for intravenous (IV) fluids, antibiotics, and medicines to relieve pain.

Chronic pancreatitis does not heal or improve. It gets worse over time and leads to permanent damage. The most common cause is heavy alcohol use. Other causes include cystic fibrosis and other inherited disorders, high levels of calcium or fats in the blood, some medicines, and autoimmune conditions. Symptoms include nausea, vomiting, weight loss, and oily stools. Treatment may also be a few days in the hospital for intravenous (IV) fluids, medicines to relieve pain, and nutritional support. After that, you may need to start taking enzymes and eat a special diet. It is also important to not smoke or drink alcohol.

NIH: National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases

Start Here

  • From the National Institutes of Health (National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases)

Diagnosis and Tests

  • Amylase Test From the National Institutes of Health (National Library of Medicine) Also in Spanish
  • (American Association for Clinical Chemistry)
  • From the National Institutes of Health (National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases) Also in
  • (American Association for Clinical Chemistry)
  • (American Association for Clinical Chemistry)
  • (American Association for Clinical Chemistry)

Living With

  • (National Pancreas Foundation)

Related Issues

  • (American College of Gastroenterology) Also in

Specifics

  • (UpToDate)
  • (UpToDate)

Genetics

  • From the National Institutes of Health (National Library of Medicine)
  • From the National Institutes of Health (National Library of Medicine)
  • (National Pancreas Foundation) - PDF

Images

Clinical Trials

  • From the National Institutes of Health (National Institutes of Health)
  • From the National Institutes of Health (National Institutes of Health)
  • From the National Institutes of Health (National Institutes of Health)

Journal Articles References and abstracts from MEDLINE/PubMed (National Library of Medicine)

Reference Desk

  • From the National Institutes of Health (National Institutes of Health) Also in

Find an Expert

  • (American Society for Gastrointestinal Endoscopy)
  • From the National Institutes of Health

Children

  • (National Pancreas Foundation)
  • (National Pancreas Foundation)
  • (North American Society for Pediatric Gastroenterology, Hepatology, and Nutrition) - PDF

Women

  • (National Pancreas Foundation)

Patient Handouts

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