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DefinitionChronic pancreatitis involves persistent inflammation of the pancreas -- an elongated, tapered gland that is located behind the stomach and secretes digestive enzymes and the hormones insulin and glucagon .
Causes, incidence, and risk factors
Chronic pancreatitis is most often caused by alcoholism and alcohol abuse , but sometimes the cause cannot be determined. Conditions such as hyperlipidemia or hyperparathyroidism , injury, and chronic obstruction of the pancreatic duct can also be associated with chronic pancreatitis.
Note: pancreatic cancer can cause symptoms and signs that are similar to those of chronic pancreatitis.
Sitting up and leaning forward may sometimes relieve the abdominal pain associated with pancreatitis.
Pale or clay-colored stools may also be associated with this condition.
Signs and tests
Inflammation and/or calcium deposits of the pancreas may be evident on:
An exploratory laparotomy may be performed to confirm the diagnosis of pancreatitis.
Management of the symptoms of chronic pancreatitis is achieved by reducing pancreatic stimulation, alleviating indigestion caused by fat, reducing pain, and treating diabetes with the following measures:
Abstinence from alcohol is required.
Surgery may be recommended if an obstruction is found. In advanced cases, part or all of the pancreas may be removed.
Expectations (prognosis)This is a serious disease that may lead to disability and death. The risk of death can be lowered if abstinence from alcohol is maintained.
Calling your health care provider
Call for an appointment with your health care provider if you develop symptoms of pancreatitis .
PreventionDetermining the cause of acute pancreatitis and treating it promptly may help to prevent chronic pancreatitis. Avoiding heavy consumption of alcohol dramatically reduces the risk of developing this condition.
Update Date: 11/7/2002Jenifer K. Lehrer, M.D. Department of Gastroenterology, Graduate Hospital, Philadelphia, PA. Review provided by VeriMed Healthcare Network.
Last updated: Tue, 06 Jan 2009 00:20:03 GMT