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Acute pancreatitis is a serious condition where the pancreas becomes inflamed over a short period of time.

What is pancreas and what is pancreatitis?

The pancreas is a large gland in the abdomen near the stomach and intestine.

The pancreas does two main things:

Pancreatitis is a disease in which the pancreas becomes swollen and inflamed. During pancreatitis the digestive enzymes of the pancreas become activated before they are released into the intestine and begin attacking the pancreas itself.

What are the types of pancreatitis?

There are two forms of pancreatitis: acute and chronic.

What are the symptoms of acute pancreatitis?

The symptoms of acute pancreatitis include:

What are the symptoms of chronic pancreatitis?

Symptoms of chronic pancreatitis are:

What causes pancreatitis?

The most common causes of acute pancreatitis are:

The most common causes of chronic pancreatitis are:

How is pancreatitis diagnosed?

To diagnose acute pancreatitis, doctors measure levels in the blood of two digestive enzymes, amylase and lipase. High levels of these two enzymes strongly suggest acute pancreatitis.

Other tests to diagnose acute pancreatitis are: ultrasonography, CT scan, MRI scan, Endoscopic ultrasound (EUS), and ERCP.

To diagnose chronic pancreatitis following tests are used: MRCP, EUS, CT scan, stool fat estimation, and ERCP.

How is acute pancreatitis treated?

People with acute pancreatitis are typically treated with IV fluids and pain medications in the hospital. In some patients, the pancreatitis can be severe and they may need to be admitted to an intensive care unit (ICU). In the ICU, the patient is closely watched because pancreatitis can damage the heart, lungs, or kidneys. Some cases of severe pancreatitis can result in death of pancreatic tissue. In these cases, surgery may be necessary to remove the dead or damaged tissue if an infection develops.

An acute attack of pancreatitis usually lasts a few days. An acute attack of pancreatitis caused by gallstones may require removal of the gallbladder or surgery of the bile duct. After the gallstones are removed and the inflammation goes away, the pancreas usually returns to normal.

How is chronic pancreatitis treated?

Chronic pancreatitis can be difficult to treat. Doctors will try to relieve the patient's pain and improve the nutrition problems. Patients are generally given pancreatic enzymes and may need insulin. A low-fat diet may also help.ERCP may be done to place stent in the pancreas and to remove stones. Surgery may be done in some cases to help relieve abdominal pain, restore drainage of pancreatic enzymes or hormones, treat chronic pancreatitis caused by blockage of the pancreatic duct, or reduce the frequency of attacks.

Patients must stop smoking and drinking alcoholic beverages, follow their doctor's and dietitian's dietary advice, and take the proper medications in order to have fewer and milder attacks of pancreatitis.

Can Pancreatitis Be Prevented?

Because most cases of pancreatitis are caused by alcohol abuse, prevention is directed at responsible drinking or no drinking at all. If heavy drinking is a concern, talk to your doctor or health care professional about a referral to an alcohol treatment center.