Pancreatitis - Cause
Normally, the structure of the
pancreas and the pancreatic duct prevent digestive
enzymes from damaging the pancreas. But certain conditions can develop that
cause damage and
Most attacks of pancreatitis
are caused by
gallstones that block the flow of pancreatic enzymes
or by excessive amounts of alcohol. Sudden (acute) pancreatitis may happen
after a drinking binge or after many episodes of heavy drinking.
Other causes of acute pancreatitis are:
Sometimes the cause is not known.
Excessive alcohol use is the most common cause of ongoing pancreatitis (chronic pancreatitis).1
Other causes of chronic pancreatitis include cystic fibrosis or a blockage in the pancreas. Chronic pancreatitis may run in families. And smoking cigarettes seems to increase the risk for this disease. In about 1 out of 4 cases, doctors aren't sure what causes it.2
Experts don't know how alcohol irritates the pancreas. Most believe that
alcohol either causes enzymes to back up into the pancreas or changes the
chemistry of the enzymes, causing them to inflame the pancreas.