The pancreas is an organ that lies behind the stomach, it produces enzymes that help to digest food and process sugar. Pancreatitis is the inflammation of the pancreas. When the pancreas is inflamed, it releases inflammatory cells and toxins that may harm your lungs, kidneys, and heart.
There are two types of pancreatitis:
- Acute pancreatitis which occurs suddenly and briefly. After an acute inflammation, it will usually settle down once the original insult or injury has been resolved.
- Chronic pancreatitis is when there’s an ongoing inflammation despite the source of injury may not be present.
What Causes Pancreatitis?
Pancreatitis occurs when digestive enzymes become activated while still in the pancreas, irritating the cells of your pancreas and causing inflammation. Repeated acute pancreatitis can damage the pancreas, resulting in chronic pancreatitis. Scar tissue may form in the pancreas, causing loss of function. A poorly functioning pancreas can cause digestion problems and diabetes.
The most common causes of pancreatitis are gallstones and excessive alcohol consumption. Endoscopic retrograde cholangiopancreatography (ERCP), a procedure used to treat gallstones, also can lead to pancreatitis. Sometimes, a cause for pancreatitis is never found. This is known as idiopathic pancreatitis. Cigarette smokers are on average three times more likely to develop chronic pancreatitis, compared with nonsmokers. The good news is quitting smoking decreases your risk by about half.
The following can also lead to pancreatitis:
- Over consumption of certain medications
- Abdominal injury
- High levels of fats in the blood (triglyceride)
- Cystic fibrosis
Symptoms Of Pancreatitis
Pancreatitis can cause serious complications, including:
Kidney failure. Acute pancreatitis may cause kidney failure, which can be treated with dialysis if the kidney failure is severe and persistent.
Breathing problems. Acute pancreatitis can cause chemical changes in your body that affect your lung function, causing the level of oxygen in your blood to fall to dangerously low levels.
Infection. Acute pancreatitis can make your pancreas vulnerable to bacteria and infection. Pancreatic infections are serious and require intensive treatment, such as surgery to remove the infected tissue.
Pseudocyst. Acute pancreatitis can cause fluid and debris to collect in cyst-like pockets in your pancreas. A large pseudocyst that ruptures can cause complications such as internal bleeding and infection.
Malnutrition. Both acute and chronic pancreatitis can cause your pancreas to produce fewer enzymes that are needed to break down and process nutrients from the food you eat. This can lead to malnutrition, diarrhea and weight loss, even though you may be eating the same foods or the same amount of food.
Diabetes. Damage to insulin-producing cells in your pancreas from chronic pancreatitis can lead to diabetes, a disease that affects the way your body uses blood sugar.
Pancreatic cancer. Long-standing inflammation in your pancreas caused by chronic pancreatitis is a risk factor for developing pancreatic cancer.
A Message About Pancreatitis
It is best to manage pancreatitis acutely. Once the pancreatitis progress to the chronic stage, it would have great difficulties managing the condition. Abdominal pain becomes the main feature of chronic pancreatitis, affecting activities of daily living and sleep. It evolves into a chronic pain syndrome whereby the acute source of pain generator may disappear and treatment of chronic pancreatitis is no longer that of acute pain model such as rest, protect, avoid and convalesce.
Chronic pancreatitis often presents as persistent abdominal pain. Often the evaluation of ultrasound or endoscopy will not yield any reversible causes of chronic pancreatitis. Your doctors may recommend medications to control the pain. Pain management independent of the cause and effect of the condition becomes the mainstay of treatment.
Severe pain may be relieved with options such as endoscopic ultrasound or injections to block nerves that send pain signals from the pancreas to the brain. Epidural and neurolysis of autonomic nerves surround the pancreas are some interventional pain procedures to stop the pain signals. In more refractory chronic pancreatitis pain, a spinal cord stimulator and/or intrathecal opioid infusion therapy may be needed to manage and curb escalating use of opioid treatment.
Here at Singapore Paincare, our team of pain care specialists together with a gastroenterologist will evaluate your condition. Tests and other procedures may be required to diagnose pancreatitis such as blood tests, abdominal ultrasound, CT scan, MRI or stool tests.
What Treatments Are Available for Pancreatitis?
In many instances, non-surgical treatment methods can provide excellent outcomes. At Singapore Paincare, we strive to treat your pain with the least invasive option possible after accurately identifying the cause. Our pain resolution approach focuses on removing pain generators via specialised injection and minimally invasive procedures. Combined with pharmacological treatments and cognitive and physical rehabilitative therapies. We help patients to improve their functions and prevent pain from recurring.
Non-Surgical Treatments for Pancreatitis
Psychological Therapy and dietary management
Enzymes to improve digestion
Changes to your diet
Surgical Treatment for Pancreatitis
In the case that all methods are exhausted, surgery may be recommended only if you are a suitable candidate. As surgery always comes with associated risks, complications and downtime, it may not be suitable for everyone. You should carefully weigh the decision before deciding to go under the knife by considering the pros and cons of both non-surgical methods and surgical reconstruction.
How Can I Prevent Pancreatitis?
Adopting a healthy lifestyle can help in preventing pancreatitis which also helps in avoiding gallstones which cause about 40% of cases of acute pancreatitis. You can do so by:
- Maintaining a healthy weight
- Exercising regularly
- Avoiding alcohol
- Quit smoking
Get Your Pain Resolved
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