What is Chronic Pancreatitis?
Chronic pancreatitis is a long-standing inflammation of the pancreas without improvement that leads to permanent changes in the organ’s normal structure and functions over time.
What Causes Chronic Pancreatitis?
Repeated episodes of acute pancreatitis can lead to chronic pancreatitis. This condition occurs mostly in alcoholics or people who repeatedly binge drink alcohol. Genetics may be a factor in some cases. In other cases, the cause is not known.
What Are the Symptoms of Chronic Pancreatitis?
The main symptoms of chronic pancreatitis are recurrent, dull, or moderate pain with possible nausea, vomiting, weight loss, and diarrhea. Chronic pancreatitis does not display the severe toxic features of acute pancreatitis.
How is Chronic Pancreatitis Diagnosed?
The first step towards the diagnosis of chronic pancreatitis is a clinical history and physical exam. A suspected diagnosis of chronic pancreatitis will then require blood tests measuring pancreatic enzymes. Additionally, an abdominal CT, x-rays, and/or ultrasound exam is often performed. An endoscopic retrograde cholangiopancreatography (ERCP) can be utilized to view the internal anatomy of the pancreas.
How is Chronic Pancreatitis Treated?
Treatment consists of rest, medication, and certain food restrictions. Alcohol consumption is absolutely prohibited. However, in cases where damage is extensive, chronic pancreatitis and pain can occur even when alcohol consumption has stopped. In some cases, surgery is recommended to provide relief of pain.