Pancreatitis is a disease in which the pancreas becomes inflamed. Damage occurs when the digestive enzymes are activated before they are released into the small intestine and begin attacking the pancreas.
Diseases of the pancreas include:
- Acute pancreatitis: inflammation of the pancreas
- Chronic pancreatitis: inflammation of the pancreas that does not heal or improve, and gets worse over time, eventually impairing the ability to digest food
- Hereditary pancreatitis
- Pancreatic cancer
Risk factors of acute pancreatitis include:
- Heavy alcohol drinking
Acute pancreatitis may be the first sign of gallstones which can block the pancreatic duct.
Risk factors for chronic pancreatitis include:
- Heavy alcohol drinking for a long time
- Certain hereditary conditions, such as cystic fibrosis
- Conditions such as high triglycerides and lupus
People with chronic pancreatitis are usually men between ages 30 and 40, but chronic pancreatitis also may arise in women.
The goal of pancreas disease treatment is to relieve symptoms so that the pancreas can recover from the inflammation. Most people with acute pancreatitis fully recover after receiving the right treatment. In severe cases, acute pancreatitis can result in bleeding into the gland, serious tissue damage, infection, and cyst formation. Severe pancreatitis can also harm other vital organs such as the heart, lungs, and kidneys.