Most people recognize the disease name “pancreatitis,” but many don’t actually know what it means. Does this sound like you? If so, here’s what you should know:
The pancreas is a large gland that plays two main roles in aiding your digestive system:
- It secretes digestive enzymes into the small intestine to help break down food.
- It releases hormones into the bloodstream to help regulate the way your body processes glucose (sugar) from food.
Pancreatitis is when your pancreas is inflamed, occurring when these digestive enzymes are activated before they’re released into the small intestine. In turn, the enzymes irritate and inflame the pancreas, which causes damage.
Pancreatitis can be caused by a variety of factors, including alcohol, gallstones, cigarette smoking, family history, abdominal injury and abdominal surgery.
There are two types of pancreatitis – acute and chronic. Acute is a sudden inflammation and lasts a short time. Chronic pancreatitis is less sudden and long-lasting. The symptoms for both are similar, but there are a few exceptions.
- Upper abdominal pain, that may extend to back or worsens after eating
- Increased pulse
- Abdomen tenderness
- Pain in upper abdomen and back
- Unexplained weight loss
- Loose stools with noticeable fat
The easiest ways to prevent pancreatitis are to limit your alcohol intake, eat healthy, exercise often, and don’t smoke.