Diseases and Disorders of The Pancreas

Written By Tony Subia
April 2020

Other than pancreatic cancer, there are other disorders and diseases of the pancreas that can have varying degrees of seriousness and complications. It is difficult if not impossible to diagnose the disorder with a physical examination or evaluation. Other tests will be necessary to conclude a diagnoses. Keep in mind the pancreas has a dual role within the body. The exocrine function produces digestive enzymes aids digesting food and the endocrine function is producing hormones such as insulin that regulates blood sugar levels.

Acute Pancreatitis

Acute pancreatitis can create intense pain that can come suddenly, particularly after eating. Essentially it is an inflammation of the pancreas when digestive enzymes begin digesting the pancreas itself. Since the pancreas lies behind the stomach the severe pain can radiate to the back. It is a serious medical condition that most often requires admission to a hospital. Besides intense pain, it can be deadly with a mortality rate of about 10%.

Causes. There can be several causes of acute pancreatitis including gallstones, a diseased gall bladder, high triglyceride levels, high alcohol abuse, and hereditary conditions.

Symptoms. Intense pain in the abdomen area behind the stomach which radiates to the back. Other more moderate symptoms nausea, vomiting, and fever.

Chronic Pancreatitis

Chronic pancreatitis can be described as inflammation of the pancreas which lasts more that 3 weeks or recurring multiple bouts. Although it shares symptoms with acute pancreatitis it most often caused by heavy, consistent abuse of alcohol. Other causes could be cystic fibrosis, high levels of calcium or fat in the blood, and autoimmune disorders.

Chronic pancreatitis usually requires dietary modifications which includes a low-fat diet, and ceasing the use of alcoholic beverages. Most gastroenterologists believe the Chronic version of pancreatitis will not heal and worsens over time. There could be a link to pancreatic cancer. Some studies show that people diagnosed with chronic pancreatitis have 2 to 5 times the risk of getting pancreatic cancer depending upon the cause.

Pancreatic Insufficiency (EPI)

The “excorine” function of the pancreas produces digestive enzymes which break down fat, protein, and carbohydrates. They are the main nutrients that provides the body’s energy needs. If the pancreas has a deficiency of producing pancreatic enzymes, especially fats, it results in reduced or inability to properly digest food.

Pancreatic Insufficiency (EPI) occurs when the pancreas cannot release enough digestive enzymes. The inability to properly digest fat causes the most significant impact. Symptoms include abdominal pain, bloating, flatulence, and diarrhea which leads to malnutrition and weight lost. Pancreatic insufficiency can result from Crohn’s Disease Celiac Disease, and Pancreatic Cancer.

Sources where more information can be found about diseases of the pancreas:
Mayo Clinic
Pancreas Foundation

This article discusses diseases of the pancreas including acute pancreatitis, chronic pancreatitis, pancreatic insufficiency. See
this page information about the pancreas including the Exocrine role which produces digestive enzymes and its Endocrine
purpose which is producing hormones which includes insulin which helps control blood sugar levels. All information in this
website is only provided for educational reasons and is not intended to provide medical advice. Always consult with your
medical providers for professional medical advice