Chronic Pancreatitis

QUESTION: Chronic pancreatitis - Is it serious?

ANSWER:

Chronic pancreatitis is an extremely serious condition with a myriad of severe complications which may arise from it. While the initial symptoms may be similar to those of acute pancreatitis (pain, nausea, and vomiting, etc.) the condition is not resolved between attacks. The complications which may arise from chronic pancreatitis are in themselves life threatening. These complications arise because of the ongoing inflammation to the pancreas. Internal bleeding is a major concern from this inflammation; there is breakdown to the blood vessels which may be manifested by anemia characteristic of slow internal bleeding. Rapid internal bleeding may be fatal.

A very common complication arising from chronic pancreatitis is diabetes. The constant inflammation to the pancreas causes it to totally malfunction. As a result, the normal function of aiding in digestion and regulating blood sugar levels in the body is disrupted. Weight loss may also occur.

The negative affects of chemical changes in the body due to chronic pancreatitis may extend to the lungs which cause chronic breathing problems. The patient is unable to intake a sufficient amount of oxygen.

Patients suffering from chronic pancreatitis may develop pancreatic cancer. The inflammation to the pancreas may promote the abnormal growth of cells. The prognosis for pancreatic cancer is poor. In addition to the possibility of abnormal cell growth, the constant inflammation may create serious infection. The infection may accumulate into pockets or abscesses which may require surgery. Infection may also be a factor in cases where pockets of fluid have attached themselves to the pancreatic walls. These pockets of fluids are called pseudocysts which when infected may burst, spilling their noxious fluids into the abdominal cavity causing peritonitis. Untreated, this may be a life-threatening condition.

The goal of medical personnel in the care of patients suffering from chronic pancreatitis is to isolate and eliminate the cause. In a large proportion of patients, chronic alcohol abuse is the major cause. Totally eliminating the consumption of alcohol will go a long way towards minimizing the ongoing complications of the disease. A change in diet may also be adopted.

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