How Serious Is Pancreatitis?

Pancreatitis, or inflamation of pancreas, can become a life-threatening situation. About 70 percent of attacks of pancreatitis are caused by alcoholism.

Pancreatitis is an inflammation of the pancreas, the organ responsible for helping you digest and absorb food. In some cases, pancreatitis can become a life-threatening situation. About 70 percent of attacks of pancreatitis are caused by alcoholism. In some cases, genetics, obesity or gallstones can cause pancreatic problems.

There are several types of pancreatic inflammation. A common type of pancreatitis is called “acute” which is a sudden swelling of the organ. Attacks may or may not recur. During an acute attack, the pancreas is literally eating itself which causes severe pain, sweating, chills, bleeding, and pancreatic damage. An accident such as a motor vehicle collision can injure the pancreas and cause acute pancreatitis.Another type of pancreatitis is “chronic.” Severe alcohol abuse is usually the cause of chronic pancreatic problems. However, some people with illnesses like cystic fibrosis, HIV, and other autoimmune disorders may experience frequent pancreatitis. The symptoms are virtually identical to acute pancreatitis, though the attacks happen regularly.

Cigarette smokers and men between the ages of 35 and 64 have a heightened risk of pancreatitis. This medical condition usually requires hospitalization for intravenous antibiotics, fluids, and painkillers. Letting the pancreas rest is important, so doctors will not permit patients to have anything by mouth for at least a couple of days. If pancreatitis does not respond to treatment, doctors may need to surgically remove part of the organ or place a stent into the pancreas to hopefully prevent future problems. After any experience with pancreatitis, limiting or eliminating fatty foods and alcohol is essential to long-lasting recovery.