Pancreatitis is inflammation
of the pancreas , an organ in your belly that makes the
glucagon. These two hormones control how your body
uses the sugar found in the food you eat. Your pancreas also makes other
enzymes that help you break down food.
Usually the digestive enzymes stay in one part of the pancreas. But if
these enzymes leak into other parts of the pancreas, they can irritate it and
cause pain and swelling. This may happen suddenly or over many years. Over
time, it can damage and scar the pancreas.
Most cases are caused
gallstones or alcohol abuse. The disease can also be
caused by an injury, an infection, or certain medicines.
Long-term, or chronic, pancreatitis may occur after one attack. But it
can also happen over many years. In Western countries, alcohol abuse causes
most chronic cases.
In some cases doctors don't know what caused
The main symptom of
pancreatitis is medium to severe pain in the upper belly. Pain may also spread
to your back.
Some people have other symptoms too, such as nausea,
vomiting, a fever, and sweating.
Your doctor will do
a physical exam and ask you questions about your symptoms and past health. You
may also have blood tests to see if your levels of certain enzymes are higher
than normal. This can mean that you have pancreatitis.
may also want you to have a
complete blood count (CBC), a liver test, or a stool
Other tests include an
CT scan, or an ultrasound of your belly (abdominal ultrasound) to look for gallstones.
A test called endoscopic retrograde cholangiopancreatogram, or ERCP, may
help your doctor see if you have chronic pancreatitis. During this test, the
doctor can also remove gallstones that are stuck in the