What are the Most Common Pancreatitis Symptoms?

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  • Written By: M.R. Anglin
  • Edited By: Bronwyn Harris
  • Last Modified Date: 10 November 2019
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Pancreatitis occurs when the pancreas becomes inflamed. There are two types: acute and chronic. Pancreatitis symptoms include pain, vomiting, weight loss, swelling, and diarrhea. These symptoms can vary depending on the type of pancreatitis the patient has developed. However, pain is common to both types.

The pancreas is an organ in the human body that aids in digestion. It secretes enzymes and digestive juices that help to break down the food that a person eats. It is also responsible for releasing hormones such as insulin and glucagon that regulate metabolism in the body. Pancreatitis occurs when the enzymes that the pancreas secretes leak into and start to attack the pancreas. Acute pancreatitis arises when the symptoms arise suddenly and are resolved soon after treatment, while chronic pancreatitis arises when the inflammation does not heal or improve with treatment.

Possibly the most common of pancreatitis symptoms is pain. In both chronic and acute forms of pancreatitis, the pain can start off in the upper abdomen and can then spread to the back. The pain may also increase after eating or drinking. In acute cases, the pain may become severe and constant, and in chronic cases the pain may be constant and debilitating. In chronic cases, the pain may eventually go away because the pancreas is so damaged that it can no longer produce enzymes.


Other acute pancreatitis symptoms include nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, and tenderness and swelling of the abdomen. In chronic cases, pancreatitis symptoms may also include weight loss even when the patient’s appetite is normal. This happens when the pancreas is so damaged that it can not produce as many enzymes as it could. Thus, the food is not being broken food properly and nutrients and fat are not being absorbed by the body. Since fat is not being absorbed into the body, this can lead to another of the pancreatitis symptoms, oily stools, because the fat is passed through the body’s system without being absorbed and is expelled as excrement.

To treat acute pancreatitis, doctors may admit the patient into the hospital and give them fluids intravenously. They may also give the patient pain medication. Some patients will have to stay in the intensive care unit (ICU) for monitoring. These patients have to be monitored because if the enzymes created by the pancreas are released into the bloodstream, it could cause damage to other organs. Surgery may also be necessary to remove damaged pancreatic tissue.

Chronic pancreatitis is treated by attempting to relieve the pain and treating the nutritional and metabolic problems the failing pancreas can create. Patients may also be given enzymes because the pancreas may not be producing enough on its own. In some cases, diabetes may develop because of the reduced amount of insulin. Therefore, doctors may also have to give patients insulin. Surgery may also be used to relieve pain and increase the drainage of pancreatic secretions.


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