What is acute pancreatitis?
If you have ever heard about diabetes, then one of its causes is an insufficient pancreas. The pancreas is made up of cells that have the ability to manufacture hormones and enzymes. One of the vital hormones it manufactures is insulin, the very hormone that when is lacking renders your blood sugar level disastrous.
Anyways, that’s not what today’s focus is. Well, the pancreas is one of the accessory organs of the digestive system. Although it is behind the stomach, it shares a close proximity with the small intestine. Just like every other organ, it can also become infected, inflamed and damaged. An inflamed pancreas will cause pains that can move from one region of the body to another i.e. from the originating point (upper abdominal part) to other areas i.e. the back.
Acute pancreatitis has the potential of worsening into chronic pancreatitis.
Causes of acute pancreatitis
It can be both direct and indirect. Those that are direct are those that have negative impacts on the pancreatic tissues and ducts.
The indirect causes are a result of conditions occurring in non-pancreatic sites.
Gallstones seem to be the major reason for acute pancreatitis. These stones get lodged in a duct called, common bile duct. Because of this, the pancreas is blocked and can no longer freely let fluid flow from the bile duct to the pancreas. Apart from stones in the gallbladder, pancreatic immune system disorders, pancreatic injury and too much fat in the blood can cause AP to develop. Injury to the pancreas could be as a result of surgery. A damaged gallbladder can also elicit AP.
Some of the indirect causes include:
- Too much alcohol intake
- Pulmonary, hepatic or pancreatic cystic fibrosis.
- Kawasaki disease: an illness that affects children below 5 years old
- Mycoplasma, a form of bacterial infection
- Viral Reye’s syndrome
- Medications i.e. antibiotics, estrogen and corticosteroids.
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Risk factors for acute pancreatitis
As little as one bottle of alcoholic drink by women and two in men per day can be unhealthy for the pancreas. Women are not as likely as men to suffer from acute pancreatic due to alcohol.
Tobacco smoking just like alcohol use can predispose you to have acute pancreatitis. Americans have been reported to have more love for alcohol and as such are more susceptible than blacks who drink less alcohol.
If your family has a history of pancreatic cancer, then you are at risk of becoming an AP patient.
Symptoms of acute pancreatitis
Abdominal pain is the commonest symptom of acute pancreatitis. This pain can come at different times. For instance, you will likely feel pain when you sit up or sleep especially when you use your back. The pain can also come shortly after drinking or eating a meal. The pain can also persist for days. The pain can be felt in your back and in your shoulder blade region.
You will feel more pain and discomfort if you:
- Have jaundice
- Throw up
- Have a fever
- Sweat uncontrollably
- Have diarrhea
- Have abdominal bloating
Diagnosis of acute pancreatitis
Upon arrival at your doctor’s office, your medical history will be taken. Blood tests and medical scans will form the basis for your diagnosis once in the hospital.
When the pancreas has lost its integrity, its enzymes, lipase, and amylase will start escaping into the blood. These two enzymes are what will be tested for in your blood.
Treatment for acute pancreatitis
When your doctor has diagnosed what is the cause of your AP, you will be given pain-relieving medications first. Infections, if present, will also be treated.
If you are resistant to the medications given thus far, you will be operated upon to remove infectious fluids, bad tissue or correct impaired ducts. This means you will have to discontinue those medications.
Gallstones-induced AP will demand a surgical aid to bring out the gallbladder.
Trauma-induced AP will demand you discontinue that particular activity till the time you are well. Your doctor will specify how mild or rigorous your exercise should be.
To keep your discomfort at bay after an AP surgery or treatment, pain prescription medication will be given to you by your doctor.
Refrain from smoking. Be hydrated at all times.
Put at the back of your mind that it is possible for the pain to come back. When it does, notify your doctor immediately.
Acute pancreatitis has been reported to be linked with diabetes (type 2). This diabetes type alters insulin availability in the body. Meals rich in protein, whole grains and vegetables can help boost the pancreatic insulin production capacity.
Lifestyle and Diet
Water is of the essence in keeping your body hydrated. Take plenty of it as frequent as possible. Keeping a water bottle handle can be of help. You can as well get infused with an electrolyte called, Gatorade.
Alcohol drinking should be refrained from. Even the very little amount of it can cause a recurrence.
Children and adolescents are to be warned sternly to keep away from aspirin use without a prescription. Reye’s syndrome can occur in them because of Aspirin use.
Complications of acute pancreatitis
Pseudocyst tops the list. This is a condition where fluids form in bag-like structures in the body. Pseudocyst can result in internal bleeding. It has also been found to interrupt with body chemical balance.
Acute pancreatitis, in certain people, might be the very first sign of pancreatic cancer.
Complications can be reduced or even prevented if you see your doctor immediately you see the symptoms. Prompt treatment will keep complications at bay.
The pain caused by pancreatitis can be serious. Any untreated AP can recur and eventually lead to chronic pancreatitis. If your AP is very severe, you might have to be given a bed space in the hospital, by this I mean being admitted. This will surely affect how long you will stay in the hospital.
Stop taking alcohol altogether. Minimize your exercise intensity. Have a diet plan you follow diligently. Doing these can fast forward your healing process and minimize your risk of subsequent attack.
Most times, AP symptoms may be confusing because they may be consequent of other ill-health conditions.
AP has a treatment regimen. Lifestyle changes can help you to be comfortable, the flare-ups notwithstanding.
Be sure you are sticking to the treatment plan recommended by your doctor.
Learn more: How you can help your dog manage pancreatitis
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- Mayo Clinic Staff. (2013, September 7). Pancreatitis