Acute pancreatitis: symptoms, causes and treatment

Acute pancreatitis is a sudden inflammation of the pancreas.. Typically, after that episode, the function of the gland is completely restored. These types of episodes occur more frequently among people between 50 and 70 years.

Anyone with good health can suffer an episode of acute pancreatitis. But nevertheless, The most common is that this takes place in those who have some health condition that predisposes them To suffer this evil. Mainly, the most common risk factor is gallbladder stones.

Another factor that can cause acute pancreatitis is alcohol consumption, when ingested in large quantities or in a very assiduous manner. Bad nutritional habits also affect the onset of this disease.

What is acute pancreatitis?

Pancreatitis is the inflammation of the pancreas. It is a gland that is located in the upper abdomen, behind the stomach. It produces enzymes, which contribute to the digestive process, and hormones, which contribute to regulate the processing of sugar or glucose.

There is two types of pancreatitis:

  • Acute Pancreatitis: It is one that occurs suddenly and remains only for a few days.
  • Chronic pancreatitis: is the one that remains active for more than six months.

Acute pancreatitis can be severe, moderate or mild, according to the effect it produces on the functions of the body. and with the complications it brings. Generally speaking, when pancreatitis is mild or moderate, it usually has no fatal consequences. However, if it is serious, the risk of death is high.


The main causes of acute pancreatitis They are as follows:

  • Gallstones: correspond, approximately, to 40% of the cases. Although the complete mechanism is not clear, the stones are supposed to obstruct the pancreatic duct causing activation of the enzymatic process within the pancreas. This leads to the destruction of organ tissue.
  • Alcohol consumption: corresponds to about 30% of cases. Systematic alcohol consumption, even if the intake is moderate, leads to chronic pancreatitis after a few years. It does not occur in all drinkers, but other factors have to concur for it to break loose.
  • Other factors: a genetic mutation was detected in the cationic trypsinogen gene that causes acute pancreatitis in 80% of the carriers. It is also a complication that appears in 5-10% of cases of those who perform endoscopic retrograde cholangiopancreatography (ERCP).

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Symptoms of acute pancreatitis

The typical symptom of acute pancreatitis is pain in the abdomen. It is present in more than 95% of cases. It has an intensity that ranges from moderate to severe and is experienced as a dagger that goes through the back. You only notice some relief with the stillness. This pain occurs suddenly, at a specific time.

In 80 or 90% of those who have an episode of this nature, nausea and vomiting also appear. At first, they are food and then become bilious or watery. It is also frequent that there is abdominal distension and fever.

In some cases, other symptoms appear that include respiratory or renal failure, heart failure, low blood pressure and mental disorders. In the case of mild pancreatitis, the pain is much more moderate and the other symptoms may go unnoticed.

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Typically, these types of episodes are treated in a hospital way. First, the fast is established for one or two days. When the inflammation subsides, a liquid diet begins and then a soft diet. Pain medications and intravenous fluids are also given to prevent dehydration.

After initial management, a specific treatment should be initiated, according to the causes that caused pancreatitis. This may include procedures for unblocking the bile ducts, gallbladder surgery, pancreas surgery or alcoholism treatment.

It is advisable that the affected person, after overcoming the episode, have a low-fat diet and with abundant fluid intake. Likewise, it is appropriate to stop drinking alcohol and avoid using tobacco.

The prognosis depends on the severity of the episode. It is less encouraging if the affected person is over 60 years old, has other health problems, is obese, has symptoms of hypovolemia, systemic inflammatory response syndrome (SRIS), pleural effusion or shows signs of changes in his mental state.