A Description Of Chronic Pancreatitis
Chronic pancreatitis is long term inflammation of the pancreas that cannot be cured as quickly or easily as the acute version of the illness. There are actually two different types of chronic pancreatitis. Some people who suffer from the condition have regular outbreaks which can be relieved to some extent with the right treatment. Other people do not get any respite from the condition but instead constantly experience moderate abdominal pain. Both forms of chronic pancreatitis can lead to irreversible damage to the structure and proper operation of the pancreas.
What Causes It
In the majority of cases chronic pancreatitis is caused by several years of persistent heavy alcohol use. Other causes include hyperparathyroidism, a malfunctioning pancreatic duct, gallstones, cancer, excessive use of certain medications, tumors, and cystic fibrosis. The condition can also be hereditary. In some cases medical experts can find no known cause for the condition.
A Range Of Symptoms
The most apparent symptoms of chronic pancreatitis are severe vomiting, nausea and significant abdominal pain and swelling. Because the condition often means that the pancreas cannot produce enough digestive enzymes, fat can no longer be adequately broken down and absorbed in the small intestine. This can cause discomfort when eating and severe weight loss. It also leads to a condition called staetorrhea- large oily bowel movements that smell particularly disgusting and may contain pieces of obviously undigested food.
Chronic pancreatitis can also stop the pancreas from being able to produce enough of the hormone insulin. Without insulin the body cannot metabolize sugar. Therefore chronic pancreatitis often causes diabetes and all of the symptoms which are associated with it.
Diagnosis And Treatment
The diagnosis of chronic pancreatitis is based on the symptoms of the condition and blood tests which determine whether or not the structure and operation of the pancreas has been impaired. If a person is diagnosed with the condition a range of treatment options are available. The patient is first hospitalized, given analgesic pain medication and put on an intravenous drip. In order to give the pancreas a chance to recuperate the patient will not be given any food or water.
Next the physician will try to find and treat the underlying cause of the condition. If the cause is alcoholism the patient will receive counseling and, if they comply, be enrolled on a detoxification and rehabilitation program. Even if the cause of the problem isn’t actually alcohol the patient will be warned to avoid drinking, which is known to exacerbate the condition.
If the chronic pancreatitis is caused by gallstones or a narrow malfunctioning pancreatic duct, surgery may be required. If the patient has developed diabetes as a result of the condition, insulin therapy will be necessary. Some patients also find that supplements that contain pancreatic enzymes help alleviate some of the symptoms. Once the pancreas has recovered sufficiently for the patient to be able to eat again, they will be put on a special diet. This diet generally comprises eating five small low fat meals each day.
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