Emily B Austin was an intern with Nutrition4Kids and a student at University of Georgia when she wrote this series of articles on the pancreas.
Inflammation occurs in many ways in the body. For example, arthritis can cause sore, swollen fingers and other joints. Another example is appendicitis, when the appendix gets inflamed and can even burst. Swelling and soreness is called inflammation. When inflammation affects an organ like the pancreas, "-itis" is the suffix added to define the problem.
Pancreatitis can be concentrated in one small area of the pancreas or it can affect a large portion of the pancreas. It is classified as either acute or chronic.
Acute pancreatitis typically develops quickly and lasts for just a few days.
Recurrent pancreatitis is when the inflammation goes away but then comes back.
What Causes Pancreatitis?
Many cases of pancreatitis occur in children who have another illnesses such as cystic fibrosis or gallstones. Other common causes include an injury to the abdomen (from a bicycle handle, for example), certain medications, and other abnormalities (such as high levels of calcium in the blood). Before the vaccination, mumps used to be a common cause. And in many cases, the cause of pancreatitis in children is unknown.
Symptoms and Diagnosis
The symptoms of pancreatitis are vague and can sometimes appear as a typical stomach virus. A key difference between pancreatitis and a stomach virus or other gastrointestinal illness is severe abdominal pain. If a doctor suspects pancreatitis, blood tests and an ultrasound or CT scan will be done to determine the diagnosis.
Generally, pancreatitis resolves on its own within 2-7 days. Treatment is focused on pain management, hydration, and diet therapy to promote healing of the pancreas.
With chronic pancreatitis, the inflammation can cause damage and lead to EPI or exocrine pancreatic insufficiency where there's not enough enzymes for proper digestion. It can also lead to diabetes if the cells that produce insulin are damaged.
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