Dr. Balentine received his undergraduate degree from McDaniel College in Westminster, Maryland. He attended medical school at the Philadelphia College of Osteopathic Medicine graduating in1983. He completed his internship at St. Joseph's Hospital in Philadelphia and his Emergency Medicine residency at Lincoln Medical and Mental Health Center in the Bronx, where he served as chief resident.
Melissa Conrad Stöppler, MD, is a U.S. board-certified Anatomic Pathologist with subspecialty training in the fields of Experimental and Molecular Pathology. Dr. Stöppler's educational background includes a BA with Highest Distinction from the University of Virginia and an MD from the University of North Carolina. She completed residency training in Anatomic Pathology at Georgetown University followed by subspecialty fellowship training in molecular diagnostics and experimental pathology.
Pancreatitis simply means inflammation of the pancreas. Located in
the upper part of the abdomen, behind the stomach, the pancreas plays an
important role in digestion. The pancreas is a gland, producing
two main types of substances: digestive juices and digestive hormones.
Digestive juices include
enzymes and bicarbonate. They
travel through a small tube called the pancreatic duct that connects the
pancreas to the small intestine to the small intestine
There, the enzymes help in the break down of proteins and fats
in the foods that you eat to permit the nutrients to be absorbed.
The bicarbonate neutralizes stomach acid.
mainly insulin and glucagon, are released into the bloodstream. They control the body's blood sugar
level, a major source of energy, and are an important role in the cause of
Inflammation of the pancreas has various causes. Once
the gland becomes inflamed, the condition can progress to swelling of the gland
and surrounding blood vessels, bleeding, infection, and damage to the gland. There, digestive
juices become trapped and start "digesting" the pancreas itself. If this damage
persists, the gland may not be able to carry out normal functions.
Pancreatitis may be acute (new, short-term) or chronic
(ongoing, long-term). Either type can be very severe, even life-threatening. Either type can have serious complications.
Acute pancreatitis usually begins soon after the damage to the pancreas begins. Attacks are typically very mild, but about 20% of them are very severe. An attack lasts for a short time and usually resolves completely as the pancreas returns to its normal state. Some people have only one attack, whereas other people have more than one attack, but the pancreas always returns to its normal state.
Chronic pancreatitis begins as acute pancreatitis. If the pancreas becomes scarred during the attack of acute pancreatitis, it cannot return to its normal state. The damage to the gland continues, worsening over time.
About 80,000 cases of acute pancreatitis occur in the United States each year. Pancreatitis
can occur in people of all ages, although it is very rare in children.
Pancreatitis occurs in men and women, although chronic pancreatitis is more
common in men than in women.
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The main symptom of sudden (acute) pancreatitis is sudden moderate to severe pain in the upper area of the belly (abdomen). Occasionally the pain is mild. But the pain may feel as though it bores through the abdomen to the back. Sitting up or leaning forward sometimes makes the pain less. Other symptoms of an attack of pancreatitis are:
Nausea and vomiting.
Fast heart rate.
Yellowing of the skin or the whites of the eyes (jaundice).
Long-term (chronic) pancreatitis also causes severe pain in the upper abdomen. As the condition progresses, fat may be released into your stools, indicating that your body is not absorbing fat and protein. As a result, you may have diarrhea and lose weight. You also could develop diabetes if your pancreas no longer produces enough insulin.
Other conditions that have similar symptoms include bowel obstruction, appendicitis, cholecystitis, peptic ulcer disease, and irritable bowel syndrome (IBS).
The pancreas is a gland located in the upper, posterior abdomen and is responsible for insulin production (endocrine pancreas) and the manufacture and secretion of digestive enzymes (exocrine pancreas) leading to carbohydrate, fat, and protein metabolism.