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Pancreatitis Symptoms, Complications and Causes

This is an inflammation in the pancreas. We know that the pancreas is a long and flat gland which sits tucked behind the stomach in the upper abdomen. Pancreas is producing enzymes which can help the digestion and hormones that help to regulate the way your body is processing sugar (glucose). Pancreatitis can happen as acute or chronic pancreatitis. The acute pancreatitis appears suddenly and it lasts for days. The chronic pancreatitis is occurring over many years [1]. The mild cases of pancreatitis can go away without treatment but the severe cases of pancreatitis can cause life – threatening complications. [2]

Pancreatitis Symptoms

Symptoms: The signs and symptoms of pancreatitis can vary which depends on which type of pancreatitis someone has [2]. Here are signs and symptoms of acute pancreatitis:

  • Tenderness when touching the abdomen
  • Vomiting
  • Nausea
  • Rapid pulse
  • Fever
  • Abdominal pain that feels worse after eating
  • Abdominal pain that radiates to your back
  • Upper abdominal pain

Here are some signs and symptoms of chronic pancreatitis:

If you have persistent abdominal pain, then you should talk with your doctor as soon as possible. If your abdominal pain is so severe that you cannot sit or find a position which makes you more comfortable, then you should seek immediate medical help.

Pancreatitis Symptoms and Causes

Pancreatitis Causes

Causes: This condition is happening when the digestive enzymes become activated while they are still in the pancreas which is irritating the cells of your pancreas and it is causing inflammation. When there are repeated bouts of pancreatitis, then the damage to the pancreas can happen and it can lead to chronic pancreatitis. Also the scar tissue can form in the pancreas which is causing loss of function. When the pancreas is poorly functioning, then it can cause diabetes and digestion problems [3]. Here are some conditions which can lead to pancreatitis:

  • Pancreatic cancer
  • Injury to the abdomen
  • Infection
  • High triglyceride levels in the blood (hypertriglyceridemia) [4]
  • Hypercalcemia (this is a condition in which you have high calcium levels in the blood) which may be caused by an overactive parathyroid gland (hyperparathyroidism)
  • Family history of pancreatitis
  • Cystic fibrosis
  • Cigarette smoking
  • Certain medications
  • Abdominal surgery
  • Gallstones
  • Alcoholism

ERCP (the endoscopic retrograde cholangiopancreatography) can also lead to pancreatitis. ERCP is a procedure which is used to treat gallstones. There are some cases when the cause for pancreatitis is never found.

Complications: Pancreatitis could lead to serious complications, such as

  • Pancreatic cancer: If you have a long – standing inflammation in your pancreas which is caused by the chronic pancreatitis, then you have a risk factor for developing pancreatic cancer. [3]
  • Malnutrition: It is known that both acute and chronic pancreatitis can cause your pancreas to produce fewer of the enzymes which are needed to break down and process nutrients from the food that you consume. This can lead to weight loss, diarrhea and malnutrition, even though you eat the same amount of food or may be eating the same foods. [5]
  • Diabetes: When there is damage to the insulin – producing cells in your pancreas which are result from the pancreatitis, then this can lead to diabetes which is a condition that affects the way your body is using the blood sugar. [3]
  • Breathing problems: If you have acute pancreatitis, then it can cause chemical changes in your body which can affect your lung function and this is causing the levels of oxygen in the blood to fall dangerously low levels. [6]
  • Kidney failure: If you have acute pancreatitis, then it can cause kidney failure which can be treated when with dialysis if the kidney failure is persistent and severe.
  • Infection: If you have acute pancreatitis, then it can make your pancreas more vulnerable to infection and bacteria. You should know that the pancreatic infections are serious and they need intensive treatment, such as surgery to remove the infected tissue.
  • Pseudocyst: When you have acute pancreatitis, then this condition can cause fluid and debris to collect in cystlike pockets in your pancreas. If you have large pseudocyst which ruptures, then it can cause complications such as infection and internal bleeding. [7]


[1] Uc A, Andersen DK, Bellin MD, et al. Chronic pancreatitis in the 21st century – Research challenges and opportunities: Summary of a National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases Workshop. Pancreas. 2016;45(10):1365–75.

[2] Banks PA, Conwell DL, Toskes PP. The management of acute and chronic pancreatitis. Gastroenterology & Hepatology. 2010;6(2Suppl5):1–16.

[3] Andersen DK, Korc M, Petersen GM, et al. Diabetes, pancreatogenic diabetes, and pancreatic cancer. Diabetes. 2017;66(5):1103-10.

[4] Garg R, Rustagi T. Management of hypertriglyceridemia induced acute pancreatitis. BioMed Research International. 2018;2018:4721357.

[5] Duggan SN, O’Sullivan M, Feehan S, et al. Nutrition treatment of deficiency and malnutrition in chronic pancreatitis: A review. Nutrition in Clinical Practice. 2010;25(4):362-70.

[6] Manohar M, Verma AK, Venkateshaiah SU, et al. Chronic pancreatitis associated acute respiratory failure. MOJ Immunology. 2017;5(2):00149.

[7] Tan J, Zhou L, Cao R, Zhang G. Identification of risk factors for pancreatic pseudocysts formation, intervention and recurrence: a 15-year retrospective analysis in a tertiary hospital in China. BMC Gastroenterology. 2018;18:143.

Pardhan Singh
Pardhan Singh
A seasoned natural therapist with degree in Ayurvedic Medicine (BAMS) successful in treating various diseases through Ayurvedic treatments. You can contact Pradhan at [email protected]


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