What is Acute Pancreatitis: A Life Threatening Pancreatic Condition

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What is Acute Pancreatitis

According to the National Digestive Diseases Information Clearing House the pancreas is a large gland which is located behind the stomach. The pancreas secretes digestive juices, and releases insulin and glucagon into the blood. Pancreatitis occurs when the pancreas becomes inflamed and this inflammation can have very serious negative effects on the body.

Causes of Acute Pancreatitis

Causes of Acute Pancreatitis. Image by animatedpancreaspatient.com

Acute pancreatitis can occur when an individual is suffering from gall stones. Gall stones are formed when bile becomes very hard and the pebble-like gall stones damage the pancreas as they move through the digestive system. Excessive use of alcohol on a regular basis, trauma to the stomach area, as well as certain medications and infections can also cause acute pancreatitis.

Symptoms of Acute Pancreatitis

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Symptoms of Acute Pancreatitis. Image by dreamstime.com

The most common symptom of acute pancreatitis is severe pain in the abdomen or back. An individual with pancreatitis will look very ill and may have nausea or vomiting. He may have a high fever and his pulse may be high. He may breathe quickly and take shallow breaths. An individual with acute pancreatitis may become confused, unaware of what is going on around him, and may possibly lose consciousness.

Complications of Pancreatitis

acute pancreatitis
Image by anatomy-medicine.com

When the pancreas becomes inflamed the digestive juices it produces may begin to eat away at the pancreas. When this happens parts of the pancreas can die. Excess fluid may begin to enter into other parts of the body. Toxins may begin to enter the blood stream and the pancreas may become infected. Kidney failure and lung failure are risks of pancreatitis and in severe cases pancreatitis will result in death from multiple organ failure.

Treatment of Pancreatitis

Treatment of pancreatitis depends on the severity of the condition. Sometimes allowing the pancreas to rest by not introducing foods or into the stomach can help the gland heal. Fluid may be drained from around the pancreas if necessary, as well as suctioning of the contents of the stomach and intestines. In most cases pancreatitis requires hospitalization and very close monitoring of vital signs and urine output.

Not all individuals with acute pancreatitis survive the illness regardless of what measure are taken to try and reverse the condition. Patients in the worst shape may end up on ventilator as a means of life support. Pain medications used to try and treat this condition are not always helpful. It is estimated that nearly half of all paients who suffer from pancreatitis wlll die from the illness.


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