What is Pancreatitis
Pancreatitis is a condition in which the pancreas is unable to function normally due to several variables. This can easily include overworking the organ, inflammation of the organ as well as trauma to the organ. This can lead to increased or decreased blood glucose levels and can be a precursor to diabetes and other afflictions which can also become lifelong struggles for people. The most important thing for someone with pancreatitis to do is seek treatment as soon as possible through a physician or a hospital emergency room visit. The condition could be life threatening to many people and even cause the pancreas to cease functioning.
Common Symptoms of Acute Pancreatitis
The most common symptoms of acute pancreatitis will almost always include abdominal pain which can extend to the back as well as nausea, vomiting and even diarrhea. Other symptoms could include dizziness, loss of consciousness and weakness in the muscles. Severe dehydration is also possible in some cases due to the loss of fluids in an attempt for the body to remove toxins and excess enzymes from the blood. Sudden symptoms could also occur and get worse within a short period of time which could easily be as little as a few hours when the case is severe.
Pancreatitis in its Acute Form
Acute pancreatitis is often a conditional problem caused by something which was done to the body. The presence of large amounts of the enzymes which the pancreas produces can easily alter the chemistry of the body while overproduction can cause swelling of the pancreas itself. It is important to seek medical help if any of the symptoms of pancreatitis are present in anyone, especially if a sudden change has been made to their body within a few weeks. Those with pancreatitis may not feel any symptoms until the day they are rushed to the emergency room.
Causes of Acute Pancreatitis
Acute pancreatitis can be caused by many various problems. The most common way to remember most of the major causes is with the clever acronym of “GET SMASHED”. The following are the causes which are most common in adults and make up the acronym:
Gallstones – Common problems in the body such as gallstones can cause inflammation of the pancreas. Removal of gallstones can also stun the pancreas and bring it into shock as well as cause it to overwork itself when attempting to recover from the removal.
Ethanol – Consumption of ethanol as well as other types of alcohol make the liver and pancreas overwork. The overproduction of special enzymes from the pancreas can cause it to fail and this is very damaging to the system. Having many alcoholic beverages in a short period of time can cause sudden acute pancreatitis.
Trauma – Damage to the pancreas and surrounding organs can lead to inflammation of the pancreas. This could simply lead to acute pancreatitis as well as further damages which could be life threatening if not treated properly. Damages to the pancreas can cause fluctuations in the enzymes which it produces as well, causing other damages to the body.
Steroids – The use of steroids and other types of hormonal treatments can affect how the pancreas works. One of the most common side effects of all steroids for most people is damage to the pancreas when it attempts to remove excess from the system.
Mumps – The mumps is a common disease spread by children and people of all ages through saliva. The saliva infects others and can cause inflammation of major organs such as the heart, liver and the pancreas. When it affects the pancreas, sudden acute pancreatitis is a result.
Autoimmune – The autoimmune function of the body can be damaged and allow infection to occur within the pancreas. Another possibility is that the autoimmune function targets the organs within the body such as the pancreas which could definitely cause pancreatitis in many individuals with that condition.
Scorpion Sting – A scorpion sting is made of venom which uses many different types of compounds to kill its prey as well as defend itself from predators. One of the most common things that can happen is that the enzyme inhibitors in the venom cause a surge in enzymes to be produced by the pancreas which could lead to damage which causes inflammation, thus sudden acute pancreatitis.
Hypercalcaemia – Most people who consume too much calcium will begin to produce calcium crystals in the blood and organs. When the pancreas is affected with hypercalcaemia, it can easily inflame and cause several different problems, including pancreatitis.
Hypertriglyceridaemia – The large consumption of red meats, foods high in fats such as triglycerides and other unhealthy options such as fast food can cause overworking of the pancreas. This can easily lead to pancreatitis in many people who have a horrible diet or have suddenly made changes to the amount of fatty foods that they eat.
Hypothermia – The gradual or instant cooling of the body to less than 95 degrees Fahrenheit will trigger hypothermia. The presence of this condition almost always causes the body to shut down non-vital extremities and causes vital organs to overwork to keep the core of the body alive. This can cause severe damage to a weak or overworked pancreas way after the body recovers from the condition if they survive it. This can easily lead to pancreatitis.
ERCP – Using the ERCP procedure to dye the pancreas and surrounding organs can cause damage or trauma to the pancreas. This can lead to a sudden burst of acute pancreatitis to occur making it possible to feel any and all symptoms of the condition after the procedure is done within a few weeks time.
Drugs – Negative drug interactions as well as taking prescription drugs which stress the pancreas can easily cause it to fall into an acute pancreatitis episode. Pancreatic function can be impaired or altered within this time frame which is often very dangerous.
Diagnosis of Pancreatitis
Pancreatitis is usually diagnosed through the presence of symptoms for the condition. Other ways to make sure that the condition is truly occurring are to run one or many of the following series of tests for pancreatitis:
Patient Overview – Patients who have a history of family members who have suffered acute pancreatitis or have a history of alcohol or drug use are often at high risk of pancreatitis themselves. This can lead to further testing to ensure that it is not occurring in a patient who has had abdominal pains and other symptoms of the condition.
Medical Examination – Touching the areas where the pain is and examining the condition of the patient can easily tip towards pancreatitis complications or other possible afflictions. Further testing can reveal pancreatitis is not diagnosed with the medical examination.
Blood Tests – The use of blood tests to look for the two most common pancreatic enzymes, amylase and lipase can help to provide insight into the possibility of acute pancreatitis. The appearance of these in the blood does not always mean that a pancreatitis episode has occurred, but it can help to diagnose the possibility of pancreatitis.
CT Scan – A CT Scan is one of the best ways to look into the body and pinpoint abnormalities in organs such as the Pancreas. The CT Scan is performed through the use of a pigment dye which is injected into the blood stream. The CT Scan hardware then uses special types of waves which can produce images which are bounced off of the body’s structure through the pigmentation solution.
Ultrasound – An ultrasound can also be used to show a visual representation of the pancreas and can provide an image of the swollen pancreas during an episode of acute pancreatitis.
ERCP – The ERCP can help to determine the possibility of pancreatitis through imaging of the organ. The common problem and risk with this method is that the ERCP can actually cause or worsen the condition.
Rarity of Acute Pancreatitis in Children
Pancreatitis, especially in its acute form is not normally occurring in children because their bodies are very efficient and make the appropriate changes to make the body work better. When acute pancreatitis does occur, it is very rare and most cases are suspected to be caused by negligence, abuse or abdominal trauma is always suspected. Negligence such as feeding children unhealthy foods or those which are nutritionally lacking can cause pancreatitis. Abuse can lead to hitting a child too hard which can cause inflammation of the organs including the pancreas. Sudden trauma to the abdomen from playing very rough or falling down from a higher location can also cause the condition when the organ is damaged.
Treatment of Pancreatitis
Treatment for the condition is not difficult and can be done immediately. To treat abdominal pain, morphine or other pain reducers are usually given. Patients are given antibiotics to help prevent infection in the pancreas and other organs as well. The patient is usually set up with an intravenous line to provide hydration and electrolytes. Stopping eating and drinking for a period of time may also be necessary to allow the pancreas to heal. This process can take a few days to up to several weeks.
Patient Outlook for Acute Pancreatitis
Patients who have suffered acute pancreatitis episodes may recover fully with the proper treatment. Those who do not seek treatment can cause severe damage to their bodies and can even die from the ordeal. Improperly managing the problem can cause a more severe, chronic pancreatitis which can lead to permanent loss of function of the pancreas and more severely, death.
Preventing Recurring Episodes
To prevent recurring episodes of pancreatitis, patients who survive will need to make serious lifestyle changes. This may be to reduce dietary intake of fatty foods as well as reducing the amount of calories they consume. Restricting sugar intake may be necessary for those who have had an episode which is diabetes related. Those who drink often will need to stop their consumption of alcoholic beverages. Although a single person could survive several episodes of acute pancreatitis, it can be severely taxing on their health and life span.