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Pancreatitis: Introduction

Pancreatitis is a serious disease of the pancreas, an organ and gland in the upper abdominal area. Pancreatitis is characterized by an inflammation of the pancreas and can be life-threatening. Pancreatitis can led to serious complications, such as diabetes, malabsorption, hemorrhage, and organ failure.

The pancreas produces and secretes digestive enzymes that help to digest food. These enzymes flow from the pancreas through the pancreatic duct into the small intestine, where they become active and break down food. In pancreatitis, inflammation causes these digestive enzymes to become active while still in the pancreas where they begin to digest the pancreas itself.

This process leads to the symptoms of acute pancreatitis that typically includes severe abdominal pain. For more details on symptoms, refer to symptoms of pancreatitis.

There are two types of pancreatitis: acute pancreatitis and chronic pancreatitis.

Acute pancreatitis occurs suddenly and is often caused by alcohol abuse or gallstones. Less commonly it may also be caused by a reaction to medications, abdominal trauma, pancreatic cancer, duodenal ulcer, genetic deformities of the pancreas, and other conditions.

Chronic pancreatitis develops from acute pancreatitis. It is a more persistent and long-term disease than acute pancreatitis. Chronic pancreatitis develops gradually, generally over several years after the pancreas has become scarred from acute pancreatitis. It most often is caused by years of alcohol abuse, but can occur as a result of other causes of acute pancreatitis.

Making a diagnosis of pancreatitis begins with taking a thorough medical history, including symptoms and history of alcohol use. A physical examination is also performed, which may reveal severe tenderness of the upper abdomen.

Diagnostic testing includes blood tests to measure the amount of chemicals called lipase and amylase in the blood. Levels of amylase and lipase can be very high in acute pancreatitis. Pancreas function tests may also be done, and a sample of stool may be tested for the presence of a digestive enzyme produced by the pancreas.

Imaging tests may include an abdominal ultrasound and CT scan, which can reveal gallstones, one of the causes of pancreatitis. CT scan may also show damage or calcification of the pancreas, a sign of chronic pancreatitis. Other tests that help to visualize the pancreas and related structures, such as the bile ducts and the gallbladder, include endoscopic ultrasound and MRI.

It is possible that a diagnosis of pancreatitis can be delayed or missed because symptoms may be attributed to other conditions with similar symptoms and for other reasons. For more information on misdiagnosis, refer to misdiagnosis of pancreatitis.

The prognosis for pancreatitis is good for most people who follow a multifaceted treatment plan. Stopping drinking of alcohol is key to a good outcome. Dietary changes are also important. Treatment plans vary depending on the severity of the symptoms, the presence of complications, and an individual's medical history.

Severe acute pancreatitis is treated in the hospital and includes the intravenous administration of antibiotics, fluids, and pain medications, and monitoring for the development of complications. For more information on treatment, refer to treatment of pancreatitis. ...more »

Pancreatitis: Pancreatitis is an inflammation of the pancreas. The pancreas is a large gland behind the stomach and close to the duodenum. The duodenum is the ... more about Pancreatitis.

Pancreatitis: Inflammation of the pancreas causing digestive complaints. More detailed information about the symptoms, causes, and treatments of Pancreatitis is available below.

Pancreatitis: Symptoms

The types and severity of symptoms of acute pancreatitis vary between individuals depending on a variety of factors, such as type of pancreatitis, age, general health, medical history, and the presence of complications. Pancreatitis is the result of an inflammation of the pancreas, which causes typical symptoms, such as severe constant abdominal ...more symptoms »

Pancreatitis: Treatments

The goal of treatment of pancreatitis is to control symptoms, such as abdominal pain, nausea, and vomiting, and minimize the secretion of digestive enzymes to allow the pancreas to heal. Treatment also aims to prevent the development of serious complications, such as malabsorption, and malnutrition, kidney failure, and pseudocyst.

The ...more treatments »

Pancreatitis: Misdiagnosis

A diagnosis of pancreatitis may be delayed or missed because some symptoms, such as abdominal pain, weight loss, nausea, and diarrhea are similar to symptoms of other conditions. These include gastroenteritis, irritable bowel syndrome, inflammatory bowel disease, or peptic ulcer. In addition, some people with chronic pancreatitis may not have pain, which ...more misdiagnosis »

Symptoms of Pancreatitis

Home Diagnostic Testing

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Wrongly Diagnosed with Pancreatitis?

Pancreatitis: Deaths

Read more about Deaths and Pancreatitis.

Types of Pancreatitis

Diagnostic Tests for Pancreatitis

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Pancreatitis: Complications

Review possible medical complications related to Pancreatitis:

Causes of Pancreatitis

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Disease Topics Related To Pancreatitis

Research the causes of these diseases that are similar to, or related to, Pancreatitis:

Pancreatitis: Undiagnosed Conditions

Commonly undiagnosed diseases in related medical categories:

In-Depth Reports: Diagnosis and Misdiagnosis

Diabetes diagnosis and misdiagnosis (In-Depth Report): Detailed report on diabetes misdiagnoses, rare curable types, and less full report »

Misdiagnosis and Pancreatitis

Metabolic syndrome often undiagnosed: Metabolic syndrome, also known as Syndrome X, is an often overlooked medical condition that causes a cluster of chronic symptoms. There are often four symptoms and conditions combined: more »

Heart attacks can be undiagnosed: Although the most severe symptoms of heart attack are hard to miss, there are varying degrees of severity. It is altogether too common for people to die from undiagnosed heart attack, or from delaying more »

Heart attacks can be overdiagnosed: Although many people die from heart attacks, there are also many cases where people fear that they have a heart attack, but actually have something milder. Some of more »

Rare undiagnosed iron disorder causes various severe conditions: The rare "iron overload" disorder, hemochromatosis, can cause a variety of symptoms and more »

Cluster of diseases with difficult diagnosis issues: There is a well-known list of medical conditions that are all somewhat difficult to diagnose, and all can present in more »

Chronic digestive conditions often misdiagnosed: When diagnosing chronic symptoms of the digestive tract, there are a variety of conditions that may be misdiagnosed. The best known, irritable bowel syndrome, more »

Intestinal bacteria disorder may be hidden cause: One of the lesser known causes of diarrhea is an imbalance of bacterial in the gut, more »

Antibiotics often causes diarrhea: The use of antibiotics are very likely to cause some level of diarrhea in patients. The reason is that antibiotics kill off not only "bad" bacteria, more »

Food poisoning may actually be an infectious disease: Many people who come down with "stomach symptoms" like diarrhea assume that it's "something I ate" (i.e. food poisoning). In fact, it's more more »

Mesenteric adenitis misdiagnosed as appendicitis in children: Because appendicitis is one of the more feared conditions for a child with abdominal pain, it can be over-diagnosed (it can, of course, also fail to be more »

Poorly healing leg rashes a classic sign of chronic disease: Recurring leg rashes, or poorly healing leg rashes, are a classic sign of undiagnosed diabetes, more »

Leg cramps at night a classic sign: The symptom of having leg muscle cramps, particularly at night, is a classic sign of undiagnosed diabetes. However, there are also various other causes. See causes of leg cramps or misdiagnosis more »

Celiac disease often fails to be diagnosed cause of chronic digestive symptoms: One of the most common chronic digestive conditions is celiac disease, a malabsorption disorder with a variety more »

Obesity-related conditions undiagnosed in children: A variety of conditions are associated with obesity (see obesity), but these tend to be undiagnosed more often in child patients than more »

Vitamin B12 deficiency under-diagnosed: The condition of Vitamin B12 deficiency is a possible misdiagnosis of various conditions, such as more »

Chronic digestive diseases hard to diagnose: There is an inherent difficulty in diagnosing the various types of chronic digestive diseases. Some of more »

Pancreatitis: Research Doctors & Specialists

Research related physicians and medical specialists:

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Hospitals & Clinics: Pancreatitis

Research quality ratings and patient safety measures for medical facilities in specialties related to Pancreatitis:

Choosing the Best Hospital: More general information, not necessarily in relation to Pancreatitis, on hospital performance and surgical care quality:

Pancreatitis: Rare Types

Rare types of diseases and disorders in related medical categories:

Latest Treatments for Pancreatitis

Pancreatitis: Animations

Prognosis for Pancreatitis

Research about Pancreatitis

Visit our research pages for current research about Pancreatitis treatments.

Clinical Trials for Pancreatitis

The US based website lists information on both federally and privately supported clinical trials using human volunteers.

Some of the clinical trials listed on for Pancreatitis include:

Statistics for Pancreatitis

Pancreatitis: Broader Related Topics

Pancreatitis Message Boards

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User Interactive Forums

Read about other experiences, ask a question about Pancreatitis, or answer someone else's question, on our message boards:

Article Excerpts about Pancreatitis

Pancreatitis is an inflammation of the pancreas. The pancreas is a large gland behind the stomach and close to the duodenum. The duodenum is the upper part of the small intestine. The pancreas secretes digestive enzymes into the small intestine through a tube called the pancreatic duct. These enzymes help digest fats, proteins, and carbohydrates in food. The pancreas also releases the hormones insulin and glucagon into the bloodstream. These hormones help the body use the glucose it derives from food for energy.

Normally, digestive enzymes do not become active until they reach the small intestine, where they begin digesting food. But if these enzymes become active inside the pancreas, they start "digesting" it. (Source: excerpt from Pancreatitis: NIDDK)

Definitions of Pancreatitis:

INFLAMMATION of the PANCREAS. Pancreatitis is classified as acute unless there are computed tomographic or endoscopic retrograde cholangiopancreatographic findings of chronic pancreatitis (International Symposium on Acute Pancreatitis, Atlanta, 1992). The two most common forms of acute pancreatitis are ALCOHOLIC PANCREATITIS and gallstone pancreatitis. - (Source - Diseases Database)

Inflammation of the pancreas; usually marked by abdominal pain - (Source - WordNet 2.1)


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