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What Causes Pancreatitis?

What Causes Pancreatitis?

Every year in the United States, more than 360,000 Americans are hospitalized for acute or chronic pancreatitis, an inflammation of the pancreas gland. That number has been steadily increasing, possibly due to the uptick in obesity rates in the U.S.

Pancreatitis can be treated, but it’s essential to recognize the symptoms so you can get treatment as early as possible. In this post, the team at Desert West Surgery offers a brief review of pancreatitis, including its causes, symptoms, and treatment options, including pancreatic surgery.

Why pancreatitis happens

Your pancreas is a long gland located near your stomach and small intestine. Like your liver, your pancreas produces enzymes that break down food during digestion. It also produces insulin, a chemical necessary for helping your body convert blood sugar (glucose) into usable energy.

The pancreas can become inflamed for different reasons. some of the most common causes include:

Some medicines can also cause inflammation in your pancreas, including medicines for certain chronic diseases.

You’re also more likely to develop pancreatitis if you have certain risk factors, including:

Inflammation often happens when enzymes produced by the pancreas “activate” before they’re released into the small intestine. When that happens, the enzymes try to break down the pancreatic tissue, resulting in irritation, inflammation, and in some cases, tissue death.

What symptoms to look for

Not surprisingly, pancreatitis can cause a lot of pain and discomfort in your belly — especially the upper left side of your belly below your ribcage. Sometimes, pain can spread to your back or shoulder.

Pancreatitis that happens suddenly is called acute pancreatitis. This type of inflammation causes symptoms like:

Chronic pancreatitis tends to develop over time. Patients may or may not experience pain in their abdomen. Other possible symptoms of chronic pancreatitis include:

People with chronic pancreatitis may not even know they have it until a more serious complication develops, like a blocked pancreas duct.

Treating pancreatitis

Pancreatitis treatment depends on the underlying cause of the inflammation. Treatment options include:

Your treatment will also depend on whether you have acute or chronic pancreatitis.

Don’t ignore your symptoms

It’s easy to blame belly pain on a stomach “bug” or food sensitivities. But when pain is severe, gets worse, or doesn’t go away, it’s critical to have those symptoms evaluated by our team. 

If you think your pancreas might be “acting up,” delaying care can result in serious problems. To find out what’s causing your belly pain or other symptoms, call Desert West Surgery and schedule an appointment at one of our three Las Vegas, Nevada, locations today.

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