Pancreatitis (acute, chronic, hereditary)

Normally, the pancreas creates digestive enzymes that are activated once released into the small intestine. Pancreatitis is a disease in which these enzymes activate before they are released and attack the pancreas. Potential causes include gallstones, heavy alcohol use, medications, infections, trauma, metabolic disorders, or surgery.

Pancreatitis can be acute or chronic.

What are the symptoms of acute pancreatitis?

Acute pancreatitis is inflammation of the pancreas that occurs suddenly. Usually resolved in a few days with treatment, acute pancreatitis may cause symptoms such as:

  • Abdominal pain
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Fever
  • Rapid pulse

What are the symptoms of chronic pancreatitis?

Chronic pancreatitis is inflammation of the pancreas that gets progressively worse and may lead to permanent damage. Common symptoms of chronic pancreatitis include:

  • Abdominal pain
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Weight loss
  • Diarrhea
  • Oily stools

How is pancreatitis diagnosed?

If a physical or blood test is not sufficient, the following tests may be used to diagnose pancreatitis:  

  • Abdominal ultrasound
  • CT scan
  • EUS

How is acute pancreatitis treated?

With a stay in a hospital for IV fluids, antibiotics, and pain management medication, acute pancreatitis usually resolves in a few days.

How is chronic pancreatitis treated?

Treatment for chronic pancreatitis may require:

  • Hospitalization for several weeks to provide pain management, IV hydration, and nutritional support
  • Low-fat, nutritious diet
  • Enzyme supplements
  • ERCP to insert a stent for those with narrowing of pancreatic duct or bile ducts
  • Surgery to remove part of the pancreas based on extent of pancreatic inflammation

If you have concerns about pancreatitis, request an appointment at San Bernardino Gastroenterology Associates.