Your pancreas is a small, leaf-shaped gland behind your stomach and in front of your spine. Its main purpose is twofold: to produce hormones that regulate your glucose metabolism and to produce digestive enzymes. Put simply, pancreatitis occurs when your pancreas gets inflamed when those enzymes start harming the gland itself. Pancreatitis can either be sudden (acute) or chronic (long-lasting). Both types are harmful to your pancreas.
Causes of pancreatitis
The most common causes of pancreatitis are alcohol abuse and gallstones, but other things may cause the condition, such as:
- Cystic fibrosis
- High blood triglycerides
- Certain medications
- Abdominal surgery
- Abdominal injury
- Certain infections
It’s also possible that smoking may increase your risk for developing pancreatitis.
Symptoms of pancreatitis
Your symptoms vary depending on whether your pancreatitis is chronic or acute. Some of the telltale symptoms include nausea, vomiting, and abdominal pain, which may be accompanied by:
- Pain that radiates to your back
- Sudden, unexplained weight loss
- Swollen abdomen
- Fast heart rate
- Greasy stools
- Low blood pressure
Possible complications of pancreatitis
When your pancreas stays inflamed from pancreatitis, you’re at risk for digestive issues, vitamin deficiencies, and a number of serious complications including:
- Type 2 diabetes
- Respiratory distress
- Pancreatic cancer
- Kidney failure
- Gastric bleeding
What is a pseudocyst?
When pancreatic ducts get blocked during acute or chronic pancreatitis, fluid builds up and forms a pseudocyst. The name includes the term pseudo because it doesn’t have specific cells that characterize a true cyst.
A pancreatic pseudocyst is rarely cancer, but it can cause considerable pain and need to be treated. If we diagnose you with a pseudocyst, our skilled team at Desert West Surgery keeps a close watch on it to prevent complications. It’s possible for a pseudocyst to resolve on its own, but if it does cause problems, we may recommend a procedure to drain it, and in some cases surgery may be needed.
Treatment options for pancreatitis
Typically the goal is to use the most conservative treatment approach for pancreatitis to help you feel better and recover quickly.
For chronic pancreatitis, your doctor may recommend lifestyle changes such as quitting smoking and avoiding alcohol to help your pancreas heal. They may also suggest enzyme supplements and provide nutrition counseling.
In some cases of acute pancreatitis, patients may be hospitalized and treated with medications and IV fluids. If gallstones are the culprit, we may need to perform gallbladder surgery.
Our doctors customize your treatment according to your condition and the effects it’s having on your overall health. For expert care for pancreatitis, trust our team at Desert West Surgery. Call one of our offices in Las Vegas to schedule an appointment at the location closest to you.