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Pancreatitis and diabetes are known to be connected in at least two common ways. Since the pancreas is responsible for the production of insulin in the body, any damage to this organ results in lowered insulin production. If a patient suffers from severe chronic attacks of pancreatitis, it may result in scarring of the pancreas or necessitate removal of the organ. When the body is unable to produce enough insulin, it often results in diabetes.
On the other hand, Type II diabetes has been recognized as one of the underlying causes of pancreatic inflammation. This condition creates a higher demand on the insulin producing cells of the pancreas. As a result, it can lead to chronic pancreatitis.
Inflammation of the pancreas, or pancreatitis, can be caused by several factors. Common causes of acute pancreatitis symptoms include gall stones, excessive alcohol consumption, and drug use. Though acute pancreatitis usually does not cause significant damage to the body's insulin production, repeated attacks or failure to treat the condition can result in cumulative damages to the organ.
Chronic pancreatitis and diabetes are almost invariably tied together. As the pancreas and the islets of Langerhans are damaged, the resulting scar tissue prevents the organs from serving their functions of insulin production and delivery. In some cases, pancreatic stones may also be formed, further damaging the organs and causing intense pain. When this happens, surgery to remove the pancreas results in Type I diabetes, because the patient will no longer be able to produce insulin naturally.
Some data suggests that people who have been diagnosed with Type II diabetes are up to three times more likely to be affected by symptoms of pancreatitis. Diabetic patients between 18 to 30 years of age may be even more likely to develop pancreatitis and Type I diabetes in the future. Due to the known link between pancreatitis and diabetes, medical science places a strong emphasis on preventative care during the early stages of Type II diabetes.
It is important to understand that pancreatitis and diabetes are two distinct conditions. Either condition can exist without the other, but one often precedes the other. As a result, patients who have been diagnosed with Type I diabetes are sometimes sent for diagnostic pancreatitis test procedures to rule out pancreatic disorders. A diagnosis that includes either pancreatitis or diabetes may also be considered an indicator of the possible existence of the other condition on medical screening questionnaires.