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Pancreatitis – Overview

May 22, 2021


Pancreatitis is inflammation of the pancreas, which can be acute or chronic. Acute pancreatitis is when there is sudden inflammation to the pancreas with digestive enzymes attacking the pancreas, which usually manifests as upper abdominal pain that commonly radiates to the back. Other symptoms may include nausea, vomiting, and fevers. In severe cases, organ failure, necrosis and shortness of breath may occur. The top two causes include alcohol and gallstones, or what we call billary pancreatitis. Repeated episodes of acute pancreatitis may lead to chronic pancreatitis. Chronic pancreatitis, as the name suggests, is a long-term condition where the pancreas shrinks and patients may develop symptoms such as malabsorption, diarrhea and abdominal pain. Chronic pancreatitis may also increase the chances of developing diabetes or even pancreatic cancer. Acute pancreatitis, which is usually temporary, results in about 275,000 hospitalizations yearly in the United States. On the other hand, chronic pancreatitis, which worsens over time, causes 86,000 hospital stays per year. Interestingly, the prevalence of acute pancreatitis is increasing, likely due to the high rates of obesity and gallstones.

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