Living with pancreatitis: What You Need to Know

February 8, 2023

What is pancreatitis, and what are the symptoms?

Pancreatitis is an inflammation of the pancreas, an organ that produces hormones and enzymes essential for digestion. Pancreatitis can be acute, meaning it occurs suddenly with potentially severe symptoms, or chronic, in which case it develops slowly over time and usually causes milder symptoms. Common symptoms of pancreatitis include abdominal pain, nausea, fever and, jaundice, a yellowing of the skin or eyes. It’s important to note that many of these symptoms are also present in other common medical conditions, such as indigestion and short-term viral infections, so further tests must be done to determine if pancreatitis specifically is the cause. Treatment for pancreatitis includes medication and hospitalization 

Depending on the severity of the condition. If pancreatitis is left untreated, it can lead to further complications. Seeking medical attention as soon as possible is essential for appropriate treatment.


What are the causes of pancreatitis, and who is at risk for developing it?

It is usually caused by gallstones or excessive alcohol consumption that blocks the pancreatic duct. This can result in digestive enzymes produced by the pancreas being activated before they are released into the small intestine, irritating and damaging different parts of the pancreas. Common symptoms include severe abdominal pain, nausea, and vomiting. Pancreatitis can also cause long-term complications and increase the risk of other conditions, such as diabetes. Those at higher risk of developing pancreatitis are individuals who have chronic alcohol abuse, people with a family history of pancreatitis, those with certain medical conditions such as cystic fibrosis, and people who have had abdominal surgery within recent years. If left untreated, pancreatitis can be life-threatening.


How is pancreatitis treated, and what are the potential complications associated with it?

It can be acute, when the inflammation occurs suddenly, or chronic when it occurs over a longer period of time. Treatments for pancreatitis depend on the type and severity of the symptoms. Acute pancreatitis is usually managed with rest and fluids in addition to pain medications and antibiotics if it is caused by an infection; however, when symptoms are more severe, surgery may be necessary. In cases of chronic pancreatitis, lifestyle changes such as reducing alcohol intake or quitting smoking can help reduce symptoms; sometimes, medication to reduce stomach acid production and drugs to reduce inflammation may also be necessary. Potential complications associated with pancreatitis include pain due to inflammation or scarring, vomiting due to blockage or leaking of enzymes from the pancreas into the intestine, cysts or abscesses in the pancreas or surrounding areas, diabetes due to persistent damage to cells that make insulin, malnutrition due to fat malabsorption, and death in extremely severe cases.


How can you live a healthy life with pancreatitis, and what should you avoid doing or eating to prevent flare-ups from occurring?

It is important to follow your doctor’s instructions on the best course of treatment. Diet modification and physical activity are the most common methods of avoiding flare-ups. Avoiding high-fat, fried, or processed foods will help keep your Pancreatitis symptoms at bay. Cut down on sugar intake as well, and make sure to drink plenty of water throughout the day. Regular exercise helps reduce Pancreatitis symptoms but be sure to tell your doctor about any strenuous activity since this could trigger a Pancreatitis attack. Make sure to get regular checkups from your doctor so they can monitor how pancreatitis is affecting your health and detect any signs of pancreatitis before it develops into something more serious.


Where can you find more information about living with pancreatitis and support from others who are also living with this condition?

Pancreatitis is a painful and potentially severe digestive issue that can limit your lifestyle and activities. It is important to stay informed about treatments and symptom management, as well as seek support from other people who share the same experiences. One great source to get more information on living with pancreatitis is Pancreatic Cancer Action Network’s Pancreatitis Learning Center, which provides resources and tools for those living with pancreatitis in all stages of their journey. Additionally, there are many local support groups in person or online where those affected by pancreatitis can connect with one another, provide education on their condition, gain emotional support, and share tips on managing day-to-day symptoms.