What Is Chronic Pancreatitis?
Chronic pancreatitis is a long-term inflammation of the pancreas that does not get better with time.
The pancreas is one of the organs behind your stomach. It produces enzymes that help in the digestion of your diet. It also makes hormones that control the amount of glucose in your blood.
Pancreatitis occurs when your pancreas becomes inflamed. Pancreatitis is called acute when inflammation develops rapidly and lasts only for a short period of time. It is considered chronic when it comes back frequently or when inflammation does not cure for a longer period of time.
Chronic pancreatitis may lead to scarring and permanent damage. Calcium stones and cysts can grow in your pancreas, which can clog the canal, or the tube, which carries digestive enzymes and juices to your bowel. Blocking can decrease the amount of pancreatic enzymes and hormones, making it difficult for your body to digest food and regulate your blood sugar. This can cause serious health problems, such as malnutrition and diabetes.
What Causes Chronic Pancreatitis?
There are numerous different causes for chronic pancreatitis. The most frequent reason is long-term drinking. Approximately 70% of cases involve alcohol use.
Auto-immune diseases happen when your body improperly attacks your healthy cells and tissues. Inflammatory bowel syndrome of the intestine, which is the inflammation of the gastro-intestinal tract, and primary bile cholangitis, which is a chronic hepatic illness related to chronic pancreatitis.
Other causes are listed below:
- auto-immune disease, which occurs when your body attacks your cells and tissues in good health.
- a narrow pancreatic channel, which is the tube that carries enzymes from the pancreas to the small intestine.
- blockage of the pancreatic canal by biliary or pancreatic stones.
- cystic fibrosis, which is an inherited condition that causes mucus to build up in your lungs.
- genetic factors
- high levels of calcium in the blood known as hypercalcaemia.
- an increase in triglycerides in your blood, which is called hypertriglyceridemia.
Who Is at Risk for Getting Chronic Pancreatitis?
Drinking too much alcohol increases your risk of chronic pancreatitis. It is also believed that smoking increases the risk of pancreatitis for people who consume alcohol. In certain cases, a familial history of chronic pancreatitis may increase the risk.
Chronic pancreatitis usually develops in people between the ages of 30 and 40. This complication is also more frequent for males than females.
Children living in tropical areas of Asia and Africa are at increased risk of developing tropical pancreatitis, another form of chronic pancreatitis. The real cause of tropical pancreatitis is unclear, but it can be related to malnutrition.
What Are the Symptoms of Chronic Pancreatitis?
In the early stages, you may not experience any symptoms. Complications in your pancreas can get very severe before you start feeling ill. When symptoms develop, these may include:
- upper abdominal pain.
- shortness of breath or dyspnea
- weight loss not identified.
- nausea and vomiting
- Increased hunger and tiredness.
- fat stools that are loose, pale, sticky and hard to rinse.
More serious symptoms may occur as the disease progresses, including:
- pancreatic juices into the abdomen.
- jaundice, which is recognised by yellowish discolouration of the eye and skin sclera.
- internal bleeding
- obstruction or obstruction of the intestine.
The pain can last for hours or even days. Some people think that eating or drinking may make their pain worse. As your illness progresses, your pain may become constant.
How Is Chronic Pancreatitis Diagnosed?
In the first stages of chronic pancreatitis, changes in your pancreas are more difficult to see in blood tests. Because of this, blood tests are typically not performed to diagnose the disease. However, they can be used to determine how much pancreatic enzymes are in your bloodstream.
Blood tests can also be carried out to verify blood cell counts as well as renal and liver function. Your doctor may recommend a stool sample to verify fat levels. Stool fat (steatorrhea) may be a sign that your body is not absorbing the nutrients properly.
Imaging tests are the safest way your physician can make a diagnosis. Your physician may suggest that the following studies can be conducted on your abdomen to see signs of inflammation:
- MRI scans
- Computed Tomography or CT scans
Your health care provider may also recommend an endoscopic ultrasound. When performing an endoscopic ultrasound, your physician inserts a long flexible tube into your small intestine by the mouth and abdomen. The tube contains an ultrasonic probe, which emits sound waves that produce full images of your pancreas.
How Is Chronic Pancreatitis Treated?
The treatment of chronic pancreatitis is designed to relieve pain and improve digestive function. Damage to your pancreas cannot be overcome, but with the right care, you should be able to control a large number of your symptoms. Treatment of pancreatitis may include medicines, endoscopic treatments or surgery in serious cases.
The medications your physician may recommend to treat chronic pancreatitis are:
- pain killers
- Artificial digestive enzymes if your enzymatic levels are very low for proper food digestion.
- insulin if you suffer from diabetes.
- steroids if you have autoimmune pancreatitis that occurs when your own immune system attacks and harms your pancreas.
Some therapies use an endoscope to reduce pain and remove blockages. An endoscope is a slim, long and flexible tube that your physician inserts into your mouth. It assists your doctor in removing pancreatic stones, placing small wired tubes called stents to increase flow, and stopping leakage.
Surgery is not required for many people. Although, if you suffer from severe pain that is not cured by medication, removing part of your pancreas may sometimes relieve it. Surgery can also be used to open up your pancreatic canal, drain cysts, or expand it if it is very narrow.
It is important to avoid alcohol following a diagnosis of chronic pancreatitis, even if alcohol consumption was not the reason for your condition. You may also want to stop smoking, as this may increase your risk of developing pancreatic cancer. There is also a need to reduce the amount of fat in your diet and take foods rich in vitamins.
What Are the Possible Complications of Chronic Pancreatitis?
There are a number of complications associated with chronic pancreatitis. You are at higher risk for developing more complications if you do not stop drinking after being diagnosed.
One of the most common complications is the malabsorption of nutrients. Because your pancreas does not produce enough digestive enzymes, your body cannot fully absorb the nutrients. That may lead to malnutrition.
Diabetes can also be a complication. pancreatitis causes damage to pancreatic beta cells that produce insulin and glucagon, These are the hormones that regulate glucose levels in your blood. This may lead to higher blood sugar levels. About 45 per cent of those suffering from chronic pancreatitis will develop diabetes.
Certain people will also develop pseudocysts, which are fluid-filled bags that may develop inside or outside your pancreas. Pseudocysts are dangerous because they may obstruct the main duct and blood vessels. They may have become infected in certain cases.
Other factors may influence your chances of recovering. as your age at the time of diagnosis and if you stop using and smoking.
Early diagnosis and treatment may enhance the appearance. Consult your health care provider immediately if you experience symptoms of pancreatitis.