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All about pancreatitis causes of pancreatitis symptoms of pancreatitis risk factors for pancreatitis complications of pancreatitis acute pancreatitis causes of acute pancreatitis symptoms of acute pancreatitis diagnosis of acute pancreatitis treatment for acute pancreatitis chronic pancreatitis causes of chronic pancreatitis symptoms of chronic pancreatitis diagnosis of chronic pancreatitis treatment for chronic pancreatitis prevention of pancreatitis

What causes pancreatitis?

There are a number of causes of acute pancreatitis. The most common, however, are gallbladder disease and alcoholism. These two diseases are responsible for more than 80% of all hospitalizations for acute pancreatitis.

Heavy alcohol use over many years is a leading cause of chronic pancreatitis. Excessive alcohol may also cause an acute attack. Why some people get the disease while most don't is uncertain. It's also unclear how alcohol damages the pancreas. One theory is that excessive alcohol leads to protein plugs - precursors to small stones - that form in the pancreas and block parts of the pancreatic duct.

Another theory is that alcohol directly injures pancreatic tissues. Gallstones form from a buildup of material within your gallbladder, another organ in your abdomen. A gallstone can block the pancreatic duct, trapping digestive juices inside the pancreas. Pancreatitis due to gallstones tends to occur most often in women older than 50 years.

A leading cause of acute pancreatitis is gallstones. Sometimes these stones migrate out of the gallbladder through the common bile duct, which merges with the pancreatic duct near the entrance to the duodenum. At this junction, gallstones can lodge in or near the pancreatic duct and block the flow of pancreatic juices into the duodenum. Digestive enzymes become active in the pancreas instead of in the digestive tract, causing acute pancreatitis. Pancreatitis from alcohol use usually occurs in men who have been chronic alcohol drinkers for at least 5-7 years. Most chronic pancreatitis is due to alcohol abuse. It is often already chronic the first time the person seeks medical attention (usually for severe pain).

Other conditions that may lead to acute pancreatitis include calcium deposits or stones that can block the pancreatic or common bile duct, increased levels of blood fats (triglycerides) or of calcium in the blood (hypercalcemia), structural abnormalities of the pancreas, abdominal trauma or major surgery, bacterial or viral infection, such as the mumps.

A complication of acute pancreatitis, such as narrowing of the pancreatic duct, can lead to chronic pancreatitis. Sometimes, young adults with cystic fibrosis and associated gene abnormalities develop episodes of chronic pancreatitis. Some people are born with a hereditary form of the disease that can cause attacks in childhood or adolescence.

More information on pancreatitis

What is pancreatitis? - Pancreatitis is inflammation of the pancreas that may occur as an acute, painful attack. Pancreatitis, an occasional side effect of ddI, can result in severe abdominal pain and death.
What causes pancreatitis? - Heavy alcohol use over many years is a leading cause of chronic pancreatitis. A leading cause of acute pancreatitis is gallstones.
What are the symptoms of pancreatitis? - Pancreatitis symptoms are characterized by severe pain in the middle of the abdomen that occurs secondary to inflammation of the pancreas.
What are the risk factors for pancreatitis? - Gallstones (lumps of solid material found in the gallbladder) and alcohol abuse (in 80 percent of all cases) are major risk fators forpancreatitis.
What are the complications of pancreatitis? - Complications of pancreatitis can be conceptualized as occurring in two domains one as local and one as systemic complications.
What is acute pancreatitis? - Acute pancreatitis is an inflammation (irritation and swelling with presence of extra immune cells) of the pancreas.
What causes acute pancreatitis? - Gallstones and excessive alcohol usage are the most common causes for injury to the pancreas and account for more than 85% of all patients that develop pancreatitis.
What are the symptoms of acute pancreatitis? - Acute pancreatitis generally starts with a pain in the upper abdomen. Other symptoms include diarrhea, bloating and fever.
How is acute pancreatitis diagnosed? - The diagnosis of acute pancreatitis can be challenging because the signs and symptoms of other medical conditions can mimic those of pancreatitis.
What is the treatment for acute pancreatitis? - The goals of treatment of acute pancreatitis are to alleviate pancreatic inflammation and to correct the underlying cause.
What is chronic pancreatitis? - Chronic pancreatitis is a condition associated with widespread scarring and destruction of pancreatic tissue.
What causes chronic pancreatitis? - The most common cause of chronic pancreatitis is long-term excessive alcohol consumption. Other causes include high levels of calcium in the blood, abnormalities in anatomy.
What are the symptoms of chronic pancreatitis? - Some people with chronic pancreatitis have no pain. Patients with this disease often lose weight, even when their appetite and eating habits are normal.
How is chronic pancreatitis diagnosed? - Diagnosing chronic pancreatitis in its early stages is often difficult. Diagnosis may be aided by a number of new techniques.
What is the treatment for chronic pancreatitis? - The doctor treats chronic pancreatitis by relieving pain and managing the nutritional and metabolic problems.
How to prevent pancreatitis? - Pancreatitis caused by gallstones can not be absolutely prevented. A healthy weight with a balanced diet and regular exercise can redce the risk of forming gallstones. 
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All information is intended for reference only. Please consult your physician for accurate medical advices and treatment. Copyright 2005,, all rights reserved. Last update: July 18, 2005