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Chronic Pancreatitis

>> Chronic pancreatitis.

Chronic pancreatitis is caused by long-term inflammation

of the pancreas...

which eventually leads to the irreversible destruction

of pancreatic tissue.

Chronic pancreatitis develops slowly over time

and is predominantly triggered by lifestyle factors

in predisposed patients,

such as long-standing, heavy alcohol or tobacco use,

although this is not always the case.

Other less common causes are medications that puts stress

on the pancreas,

elevated triglycerides, some autoimmune conditions,

and some inherited or genetic conditions,

notably cystic fibrosis and hereditary pancreatitis.

In some people, the cause of chronic pancreatitis

is never discovered and remains a mystery.

The pancreas is a digestive system organ

that has two important functions.

It produces hormones that regulate blood sugar

as well as enzymes to break down food in the digestive tract.

When the pancreas doesn't work properly,

it affects the body's ability to properly digest food.

This means that some people with chronic pancreatitis

are unable to get the nutrients they need

from the food they eat.

They can have trouble digesting food properly

or maintaining their blood sugar in a healthy range.

This can lead to nutrition-related disease,

such as weak bones and vision loss.

Some people may also have difficulty gaining

or maintaining their weight, and persistent pain.

The hallmark symptom of chronic pancreatitis

is abdominal pain.

The pain may be intermittent or chronic,

and is frequently very severe

with stabbing pains localized in the upper part of the abdomen

between the belly button and the chest.

The pain may radiate to the back

and may be triggered by eating,

especially high-fat foods.

As the disease progresses, the pain may become more severe

and debilitating,

and often it becomes constant.

In some cases, surgery or endoscopic treatment

may be required.

Oily, foul-smelling bowel movements

and weight loss may be seen in the advanced stages

of the disease

and usually signals exocrine pancreatic insufficiency.

As well, depending on the severity and extent

of the damage to the pancreas,

some people develop diabetes.

A combination of tests

are used to diagnose chronic pancreatitis.

In some people, diagnosis is challenging

due to the course of the disease.

However, in others, it is relatively straightforward.

A CT scan of the abdomen is the most commonly used test.

An MRI or endoscopic ultrasound may also be used

to confirm the diagnosis.

In some difficult-to-diagnose cases,

pancreatic stimulation testing can be useful.

This test artificially stimulates the pancreas

using secretin.

This test is expensive and invasive,

so it is not frequently performed.

Blood tests are not useful for diagnosing

chronic pancreatitis.

Although there is no cure for chronic pancreatitis,

early diagnosis and treatment

can help slow the progression of the disease.

Treatment involves avoiding triggers,

such as heavy alcohol use, smoking, and high-fat foods.

Other treatment interventions involve pain management,

medication such as pancreas enzyme replacement therapy--

PERT--

and supporting a healthy diet with multivitamin

and mineral supplements.