Warning signs of pancreatitis include:
- Sudden, severe, constant pain in the upper part of the abdomen
- Pain may wrap around the upper body and involve the back in a band-like pattern or radiate directly to the back
- Pain usually lasts for days and is frequently relieved by leaning forward
- Often follows a meal
- Occurs in the right upper abdomen, extending to the back and right shoulder
- Gradually increases in intensity and is constant
- May be accompanied by nausea and vomiting
People who have alcoholic pancreatitis, may also experience acute pancreatitis:
What Causes Pancreatitis?
Causes of pancreatitis include:
- Gallstones (gallstone pancreatitis)
- Alcohol abuse (alcoholic pancreatitis)
- Drug-induced pancreatitis
- Post-endoscopic retrograde cholangiopancreatography (ERCP)
- A procedure performed to evaluate the gallbladder or pancreas
- About 3 to 5 percent of people who undergo ERCP experience ERCP-induced pancreatitis, which is usually mild
- Hereditary conditions
In about 20% of people, there is no underlying identifiable cause (called idiopathic pancreatitis).
How Is Pancreatitis Diagnosed?
Pancreatitis is diagnosed with a medical history and physical examination. Tests used to help confirm pancreatitis or to rule out other conditions include:
- Blood tests for pancreatic enzymes
- Imaging tests
- Endoscopic retrograde cholangiopancreatography (ERCP)
- Used to remove stones from the bile duct if pancreatitis is due to gallstones or other problems with the bile or pancreatic ducts
- Can also be used to treat some causes of pancreatitis
What Is the Treatment for Pancreatitis?
Pancreatitis usually requires hospitalization.
Treatment for mild pancreatitis includes simple supportive care, such as:
- Monitoring of vital signs
- Pain medications
- Intravenous (IV) fluids
- Patients may not be allowed to eat anything during the first few days if significant nausea with vomiting is present
Treatment for moderately severe and severe acute pancreatitis requires more extensive monitoring and supportive care, such as:
- Intravenous fluids to prevent dehydration
- Feeding tube or nutrition through an intravenous line placed in the upper chest
- Antibiotics to prevent infections and control existing infections
- In severe cases, damaged and/or infected pancreatic tissue may be drained into the stomach or duodenum or removed (necrosectomy)
Treatment for gallstone pancreatitis treatment of pancreatitis is along with treatment of gallstones, which may involve:
- A procedure to relieve the blockage caused by the gallstone(s)
- Surgical removal of the gallbladder (cholecystectomy) to prevent a recurrence
People with alcoholic pancreatitis must stop drinking alcohol to prevent pancreatitis from recurring.
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