Pancreatitis: Learn How to Lower Your Risk for this Painful Condition


Pancreatitis: Learn How to Lower Your Risk for this Painful Condition

10:01 16 April in Health, Medicine

Pancreatitis is a condition where the pancreas becomes inflamed and irritated.

Lifestyle factors that increase the risk of pancreatitis include heavy alcohol use, smoking, obesity, diabetes, and a diet high in processed or fatty foods.

Rates of pancreatitis have increased over the past 50 years in most parts of the world, especially in North America, Eastern Europe, and Central Europe. Cases are expected to rise into the next generation as well.

Positive lifestyle habits can reduce the risk of developing pancreatitis, and prompt medical treatments can be effective at managing this condition once diagnosed. Learn more about pancreatitis, how to minimize your risk, and when to seek help from a healthcare professional.

What Does the Pancreas Do?

The pancreas is a long gland that’s located behind the stomach. It has two main functions: One, it produces enzymes that help us digest food; and two, it produces insulin that helps us regulate blood sugar levels.

How Does Pancreatitis Affect the Body?

When someone develops pancreatitis, their pancreas becomes inflamed, which may cause the pancreas to not function correctly. Instead of sending enzymes into the small intestine to digest food, the enzymes attempt to perform this function inside the pancreas. This causes swelling and pain.

Sometimes, pancreatitis is an acute condition, which means it comes on suddenly, lasts a short time, and may resolve on its own. Symptoms of acute pancreatitis include pain and tenderness in the belly, fever, nausea, vomiting, and a quick pulse. For cases of acute pancreatitis that aren’t severe, a full recovery usually occurs within ten days. If someone has a severe case, however, they may need to stay in the hospital for up to a few weeks.

It can also be a chronic condition, which is a long-term sickness that grows worse with time. Symptoms of chronic pancreatitis include pain in the abdomen that may worsen after meals, unintended weight loss, and oily stools. People will need to work with a doctor to manage the symptoms and to maintain their quality of life.

What Are the Risk Factors for Developing Pancreatitis?

Health conditions that increase the risk for pancreatitis include: gallstones that cause a blockage in the bile duct, high triglyceride or calcium levels, and pancreatic cancer. Someone is also more likely to have pancreatitis if a family member has had it.

What Are Potential Long-Term Effects of Pancreatitis?

Pancreatitis may lead to diarrhea, malnutrition, and unintended weight loss. When acute pancreatitis prevents the kidneys from filtering waste from the blood, it can lead to kidney failure. Chronic pancreatitis can increase the risk of pancreatic cancer. In extreme cases, pancreatitis can lead to multiple organ failure and death.

If someone experiences symptoms of pancreatitis, it’s important to seek prompt medical care.

How Can I Keep My Pancreas Healthy?

Adopting positive diet and lifestyle habits can do a lot to support the health and functioning of your pancreas. Here are a few changes you can make to reduce your risk of developing pancreatitis:

Eat a nutritious diet: Embrace a well-balanced diet that includes whole grains, fruits, and vegetables.

Get moving: Try to exercise for about 30 minutes each day.

Don’t drink – or drink in moderation: Restrict your alcohol intake to low-to-moderate levels.

Don’t smoke: About a quarter of pancreatic cancer diagnoses are linked to tobacco. If you’re a smoker who’s had a difficult time stopping, consider a smoking cessation program to help you break the habit.

Visit a healthcare provider for regular checkups: If you have concerns about abdominal pain or nausea, share these concerns with your doctor.