Pancreatitis is painful. Don’t let your pancreas get inflamed!

August 31, 2018 Lifestyle Diseases 10158 Views


What is Pancreatitis?

Jaybala was resting on the bed while her daughter played around her making a mock castle with pillows and using blankets as capes. Amid all the jumping and make-believe activity, she slipped and fell on Jaybala. The little girl studying in Std 3 of a suburban school could not arrest her fall and her elbow dug deep into her mother’s stomach. Jaybala felt a sharp bolt of pain and immediately began to rub the area around her belly-button assuming it was temporary even though it was quite severe. But when the pain did not subside even after a good half an hour, she called her husband to hurry home and help her go to the doctor. Within an hour, Jaybala was at the clinic of her physician, who could see she could barely sit. He felt Jaybala’s abdomen and rushed Jaybala to the closest hospital, as an emergency case to get admit under a Gastroenterologist with Jaybala’s alarmed husband on tow.

In an unrelated incident, Maya, mother of a teenager, Ashutosh, was worried about her son’s weight loss that was inexplicable. He had a healthy appetite and a balanced diet. Gym didn’t bother him, and nor was he stressed or suffering from depression and yet had lost a great deal of weight lately.

Pancreatitis – the inflammation of the pancreas

What causes the pancreas to malfunction or swell? Is a surgical procedure always needed? Inflammation of the pancreas occurs when digestive enzymes get activated, while still in the pancreas, irritating the cells in it. At other times, scar tissue may form in the pancreas which weakens the ability of the pancreas to function.  When the pancreas cannot function properly it will mostly lead to diabetes or digestive problems.

It is estimated that 20% of cases of acute pancreatitis are clinically severe (SAP) with high morbidity and mortality related to it.

Types of pancreatitis

In Jaybala’s case, it was acute pancreatic implying sudden onset and the accompanying pain which lingers for days. In certain other mild cases, pancreatic may subside even without treatment. There’s also chronic pancreatitis, developed over time due to repeated episodes of acute pancreatitis.

Resulting complications

What would have happened to Jaybala if the pancreatic broth would have been released into the bloodstream? According to the Gastroenterologists, Pancreatic toxemia leads to very severe complications – impairing the renal, pulmonary and Central Nervous System (CNS). This necessitates surgery, in the early stages itself, as the presence of pathogenic bacteria and the infection have to be eradicated immediately.

Other serious issues could also develop such as:

  • Pseudocyst – Cyst-like formation occurs in the pancreas due to the build-up of fluid and debris which the pancreas cannot get rid of; if the pseudocyst ruptures there would be further complications: internal bleeding and infection.
  • Kidney failure – Dialysis can be the solution if kidney failure persists.
  • Breathing problems – Oxygen level in the blood can fall to dangerously low levels as lung function gets affected, with chemical changes in the body.
  • Pancreatic cancer – chronic pancreatitis is a predisposing factor.
  • Diarrhea, Malnutrition – Despite eating the same quantity of food as before, a person whose pancreas is affected may lose a tremendous amount of weight, as the production of digestive enzymes, falls considerably.

This explains the case of Ashutosh and why he was reeling from weight loss, even without trying. Clearly, chronic pancreatitis was the culprit. Are there any other symptoms to look out for? Yes, upper abdomen pain and smelly, oily stools, called steatorrhea, are two other symptoms of chronic pancreatitis.

Symptoms of acute pancreatitis

  • Tenderness
  • Fever, nausea, vomiting
  • Rapid pulse
  • When abdomen pain worsens after eating
  • If abdominal pain extends and radiates to the back

While Jaybala’s case reflected a sudden onset, what could possibly be the cause for Ashutosh having chronic pancreatitis? He did not smoke and would rarely drink, more like a social drinker. So alcoholism and smoking are ruled out.

Predisposing and Risk factors that indicate pancreatitis:

  • Family history
  • Medication
  • Cystic fibrosis
  • Abdomen injury
  • Gallstones
  • Abdomen surgery
  • Hypertriglyceridemia meaning high triglyceride levels in the blood
  • Hypercalcemia, a condition that implies high calcium levels in the blood, because of hyperparathyroidism, which is actually an overactive parathyroid gland

On further probing, it was found that Ashutosh had used antibiotics in the past. While it’s rare that certain medicines can cause inflammation of the pancreas, ones like metronidazole, tetracycline, sulfamethoxazole; general anesthetics are also suspect.

If you are also showing such symptoms then contact Gastroenterologist near you today.

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