What are the symptoms of chronic pancreatitis?
Chronic pancreatitis differs in that the inflammation happens over time, often many years. This disease is usually less obvious, and in its early stages, its signs and symptoms can be difficult to recognize. Some people with chronic pancreatitis have no pain. Some patients do not have any pain but most do. Pain may be constant in the back and abdomen, and for
some patients, the pain attacks are disabling. In some cases, the abdominal pain goes away as the condition advances. Doctors think this happens because pancreatic enzymes are no longer being made by the pancreas.
Others have intermittent periods of mild to moderate abdominal pain. The pain may be sharp and last for a few hours, or it may be a continuous dull ache that lasts for weeks. In addition to pain, you may experience nausea and vomiting, fever, bloating and gas. Drinking alcohol or eating can make the symptoms worse.
Unlike acute pancreatitis, which may improve spontaneously without long-term complications, chronic disease results in permanent damage. As the inflammation persists, it slowly destroys the pancreas. The organ is less able to secrete the enzymes and hormones needed for proper digestion. This leads to poor absorption (malabsorption) of nutrients, particularly fat, causing weight loss and passage of fat-containing stools that are loose, malodorous and oily in appearance. Eventually, the cells that produce insulin are impaired, causing diabetes.
Patients with this disease often lose weight, even when their appetite and eating habits are normal. This occurs because the body does not secrete enough pancreatic enzymes to break down food, so nutrients are not absorbed normally. Poor digestion leads to loss of fat, protein, and sugar into the stool. Diabetes may also develop at this stage if the insulin-producing cells of the pancreas (islet cells) have been damaged.