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Pancreatitis (cont.)

Pancreatitis Symptoms

Acute Pancreatitis Symptoms

The most common symptom of acute pancreatitis is pain. Almost everybody with acute pancreatitis experiences pain.

  • The pain may come on suddenly or build up gradually. If the pain begins suddenly, it is typically very severe. If the pain builds up gradually, it starts out mild but may become severe.
  • The pain is usually centered in the upper middle or upper left part of the belly (abdomen). The pain is often described as if it radiates from the front of the abdomen through to the back.
  • The pain often begins or worsens after eating.
  • The pain typically lasts a few days.
  • The pain may feel worse when a person lies flat on his or her back.

People with acute pancreatitis usually feel very sick. Besides pain, people may have other symptoms and signs.

  • Nausea (Some people do vomit, but vomiting does not relieve the symptoms.)
  • Fever, chills, or both
  • Swollen abdomen which is tender to the touch
  • Rapid heartbeat (A rapid heartbeat may be due to the pain and fever, dehydration from vomiting and not eating, or it may be a compensation mechanism if a person is bleeding internally.)

In very severe cases with infection or bleeding, a person may become dehydrated and have low blood pressure, in addition to the following symptoms:

  • Weakness or feeling tired (fatigue)
  • Feeling lightheaded or faint
  • Lethargy
  • Irritability
  • Confusion or difficulty concentrating
  • Headache

If the blood pressure becomes extremely low, the organs of the body do not get enough blood to carry out their normal functions. This very dangerous condition is called circulatory shock and is referred to simply as shock.

Chronic Pancreatitis Symptoms

Pain is less common in chronic pancreatitis than in acute pancreatitis.

Some people have pain, but many people do not experience pain. For those people who do have pain, the pain is usually constant and may be disabling; however, the pain often goes away as the condition worsens. This lack of pain is a bad sign because it probably means that the pancreas has stopped working.

Other symptoms of chronic pancreatitis are related to long-term complications, such as the following:

  • Inability to produce insulin (diabetes)
  • Inability to digest food (weight loss and nutritional deficiencies)
  • Bleeding (low blood count, or anemia)
  • Liver problems (jaundice)

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Patient Comments & Reviews

The eMedicineHealth doctors ask about Pancreatitis:

Pancreatitis - Diet Prevention

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Pancreatitis - Describe Your Experience

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Pancreatitis - Symptoms

The symptoms of pancreatitis can vary greatly from patient to patient. What were your symptoms at the onset of your disease?




Read What Your Physician is Reading on Medscape

Pancreatitis, Acute »

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.

Read More on Medscape Reference »


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