Main Causes of Chronic Pancreatitis, Risk Factors and Symptoms

Share this Article:

Written By Tony Subia
April 12, 2022

What is Chronic Pancreatitis?

Chronic Pancreatitis is an extreme, long term inflammation of the pancreas that usually has recurring episodes.

Chronic pancreatitis never heals and gets worse over time eventually leading to permanent, irreversible damage to the pancreas. The pancreas plays a dual role to the body. Its “Exocrine Function” is to produce digestive enzymes. When we eat, it triggers the pancreas to send digestive enzymes to the small intestine to digest the food we eat. That process turns food into nutrients that are sent around the body to provide needed energy to the body’s cells.

The other role the pancreas is its “Endocrine Function”  which produces hormones such as insulin that regulate the levels of blood sugar in the bloodstream.

What Causes Chronic Pancreatitis?

Chronic pancreatitis is caused by a continuing long term inflammation which develops slowly over time and is most triggered by poor lifestyle factors which includes heavy abuse of alcohol and and heavy, longstanding use of tobacco. However, those are not always the cause of chronic pancreatitis. Other less common causes of chronic pancreatitis that places stress on the pancreas includes the following:

> Autoimmune conditions when the the body’s own immune system attacks itself.
> Genetic mutations often caused by cystic fibrosis. This can be hereditary.
> Blocked pancreatic ducts or the common bile duct often by gall stones.
> Familial pancreatitis when 2 or more immediate family members with a history of pancreatitis.
> Elevated levels of triglycerides.
> Multiple episodes of Acute Pancreatitis
> Sometimes the cause pf chronic pancreatitis is unknown.

What Happens If The Pancreas Does Not Produce Adequate Levels of Digestive Enzymes?

If the digestive function of the pancreas does not perform properly, it will either not produce digestive enzymes at all or will produced a diminished supply. In those cases the small intestine will not properly digest food to provide the necessary nutrients the body requires.

People stricken with chronic pancreatitis which is a serious inflammation of the pancreas can experience unhealthy levels of blood sugar (glucose) in the bloodstream which can lead to type 2 diabetes, weakened bones, vision problems. Most people with chronic pancreatitis have difficulty gaining or maintaining weight and will have some persistent pain and can become debilitating

Chronic Pancreatitis Symptoms

The most common symptom of chronic pancreatitis is abdominal pain which is often chronically intermittent with sharp stabbing pain the abdomen  of the stomach since the pancreas is located behind the stomach.

That’s why the pain will radiate to the back.  The pain is often triggered by eating foods high in fat. Weight loss is usually experience in advanced stages chronic pancreatitis usually signalling the existence of “pancreatic insufficiency“.

Severe cases can lead to developing diabetes.

Other symptoms of chronic pancreatitis can include the following:

> Nausea
> Vomiting
> Weight loss
> Diarrhea
> Oily or fatty stools
> Clay color or pale stools

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 eating food with very high levels of  fat which can slow the progression of chronic pancreatitis. It is always advisable to seek the advice of a registered nutrition specialist who can design a healthy diet to control the symptoms along with multivitamins.

Pancreas Enzyme Replacement Therapy (PERT) Will Become Necessary

Pancreatic digestive enzyme replacement is necessary treatment with prescription medications that act as the substitute for the absence or diminished performance of natural digestive enzymes produced by the pancreas.

Video Describing Nutrition Management For Those With Chronic Pancreatitis

This article is provided for educational awareness only by the Seena Magowitz Foundation For Pancreatic Cancer Research and is not intended to replace professional medical advice. Always consult with your medical providers for medical advice. The article describes the purpose of the pancreas and what causes chronic pancreatitis, its causes, symptoms, and risk factors

Send this to a friend