Pancreatitis - What Happens
usually appears as a sudden (acute) attack of pain in the
upper area of the belly (abdomen). The disease may be mild or severe.
Most people with pancreatitis
have mild acute pancreatitis. The disease does not affect their other organs,
and these people recover without problems. In most cases, the disease goes away within
a week after treatment begins. Treatment takes place in the hospital with pain
medicines and intravenous (IV) fluids. After inflammation goes away, the
pancreas usually returns to normal.
In some cases, pancreatic tissue is permanently damaged or even
dies (necrosis). These complications increase the risk of infection and organ
In severe cases, pancreatitis can be fatal.
(chronic pancreatitis) may occur after one or more episodes of acute
pancreatitis. The most common cause of chronic pancreatitis is long-term alcohol abuse.
What happens during the course of chronic
pancreatitis varies. Ongoing pain and complications often occur.
Complications may include flare-ups of symptoms, fluid buildup, and blockage of
a blood vessel, the bile duct, or the small intestine.
If much of
your pancreatic tissue has died, you may become malnourished. This happens because the
pancreas no longer produces enzymes needed to digest fat and protein. So fat is released into your stool. This condition, called steatorrhea,
causes loose, pale, unusually foul-smelling stools that may float in the toilet
If the damaged pancreas stops making enough
insulin, you also may develop
Chronic pancreatitis increases
the risk of pancreatic cancer. About 4 out of 100 people with chronic
pancreatitis develop this cancer.1