Many people suffer from pancreatitis and there are two main forms of this condition. Our pancreas is a gland that sits behind the stomach, beside the small intestine. This large gland is in control of two things: it secretes enzymes that aid in the digestion of our food via the small intestine and the pancreas also releases two hormones that are essential in controlling our blood sugar levels. These hormones are glucagon and insulin. These two roles in the body are important to the overall function of our body, therefore, if pancreatitis occurs, our body can go into disarray and it can even be life-threatening. Here is everything you need to know about pancreatitis and when to seek medical assistance.
The Two Forms of Pancreatitis: Chronic and Acute
Pancreatitis takes shape in two forms, either chronic or acute. Chronic pancreatitis is inflammation that lasts a very long time, whereas acute pancreatitis is inflammation that can last just a few days. Chronic pancreatitis usually occurs following an acute episode that is not resolved. Another cause of chronic pancreatitis is the excessive consumption of alcohol. This can take several years to take shape but is a big risk factor for developing chronic pancreatitis. It isn’t just humans that suffer from chronic pancreatitis though; animals can also suffer from this condition. If your dog is suffering from pancreatitis, find out more details on how to help manage your pooch’s symptoms here.
Acute pancreatitis is so-called as it only lasts for a short period of time. Your pancreas can become suddenly inflamed and the symptoms can range from mild to extremely severe. Acute pancreatitis is usually treated very easily once diagnosed and can disappear after the correct treatment in most cases. Complications can occur when a person is suffering from acute pancreatitis though, such as bleeding and tissue damage. This can then cause harm to other vital organs within the body, such as the kidneys, lungs, and heart, and that is why seeking medical advice sooner rather than later is important if you suffer from any of the symptoms mentioned below.
The Symptoms of Chronic and Acute Pancreatitis
Often, the symptoms for both forms of pancreatitis are similar, but they can vary slightly. Acute pancreatitis is often spotted sooner, whilst chronic pancreatitis can occur in the body for a while before being diagnosed. Those who are suffering from acute pancreatitis may display any or all of the following symptoms: a swollen abdomen, fever, fast heart rate, vomiting, and pain across the upper abdomen and back. If you are suffering from any of these symptoms, it is essential you seek medical attention to avoid any complications and to get treatment before the situation becomes life-threatening.
For those who have chronic pancreatitis, you may well have already suffered from the above symptoms and been treated for acute pancreatitis. If this treatment does not work, the following symptoms may occur – weight loss, diarrhea, and diabetic symptoms. If you feel a constant pain where your pancreas sits, you may have chronic pancreatitis. As your pancreas aids in digesting and absorbing food, you will begin to notice weight loss as you cannot take in any of the food you are consuming. Diabetes can occur in chronic pancreatitis as your pancreas is responsible for the insulin levels in your body.
How Pancreatitis is Diagnosed
If you are suffering from any of the above symptoms, get yourself an emergency doctor’s appointment or go straight to the nearest emergency room. The easiest way to diagnose pancreatitis is through a blood test. A doctor will take your blood and send it off to the labs. They are looking for two enzymes called lipase and amylase. If these two enzymes are in the blood and are at a much higher level than they should be, this suggests that you are suffering from acute pancreatitis.
There are other tests that doctors may carry out to rule out anything else or if your blood sample does not come back with a clear diagnosis. You may be asked to have a scan, either a CT scan, an MRI or an ultrasound, all of which can give doctors a clear image of your pancreas, allowing them to see any problems and inflammation. You may also be asked to give a urine or stool sample. History taking is also relevant when determining pancreatitis, as there are certain medications and conditions that could lead to pancreatitis occurring.
Treatment for Acute and Chronic Pancreatitis
If you are diagnosed with acute pancreatitis, you will usually be kept in the hospital, so your symptoms can be managed closely. This is because acute pancreatitis can prove fatal, so quick treatment will aid in a better recovery and fewer complications. You will have a cannula inserted into a vein, which allows medications and fluids to go straight into your bloodstream. This allows for faster and better treatment. You will be given fluids and pain medications through this tube. If your acute pancreatitis is severe, you may need surgery to get rid of any damaged or dead tissue in case of infection. Acute pancreatitis is usually limited to a few days.
Chronic pancreatitis can be much more difficult to treat but a range of treatments are available to enable those living with the condition to remain healthy and pain-free. If you are diagnosed with chronic pancreatitis, you will be started on enzymes, as your pancreas is not secreting these. You may also be required to take insulin. Doctors also advise a diet that is low-fat, as fat is harder to digest, especially for those with chronic pancreatitis. Surgery may be used in some cases, but doctors will discuss this with you beforehand. It is essential that you stop drinking alcohol and smoking if you have chronic pancreatitis, as this can significantly improve symptoms.
Understanding the symptoms associated with pancreatitis may help you to determine the condition. Pancreatitis can occur at any time, so if you or a loved one is displaying the symptoms of either of these conditions, seek medical advice.