What Causes Pancreatitis?
In most cases, acute pancreatitis is caused by gallstones or heavy alcohol use. Other causes include medications, infections, trauma, metabolic disorders, and surgery. In up to 15% of people with acute pancreatitis, the cause is unknown.
In about 70% of people, chronic pancreatitis is caused by long-time alcohol use. Other causes include gallstones, hereditary disorders of the pancreas, cystic fibrosis, high triglycerides, and certain medicines. In about 20% to 30% of cases, the cause of chronic pancreatitis is unknown.
How Is Pancreatitis Treated?
Treatment for acute pancreatitis
People with acute pancreatitis are typically treated with IV fluids and pain medications in the hospital. In some patients, the pancreatitis can be severe and they may need to be admitted to an intensive care unit (ICU). In the ICU, the patient is closely watched because pancreatitis can damage the heart, lungs, or kidneys. Some cases of severe pancreatitis can result in death of pancreatic tissue. In these cases, surgery may be necessary to remove the dead or damaged tissue if an infection develops.
An acute attack of pancreatitis usually lasts a few days. An acute attack of pancreatitis caused by gallstones may require removal of the gallbladder or surgery of the bile duct. After the gallstones are removed and the inflammation goes away, the pancreas usually returns to normal.
Treatment for chronic pancreatitis
Chronic pancreatitis can be difficult to treat. Doctors will try to relieve the patient’s pain and improve the nutrition problems. Patients are generally given pancreatic enzymes and may need insulin. A low-fat diet may also help.
Surgery may be done in some cases to help relieve abdominal pain, restore drainage of pancreatic enzymes or hormones, treat chronic pancreatitis caused by blockage of the pancreatic duct, or reduce the frequency of attacks.
Patients must stop smoking and drinking alcoholic beverages, follow their doctor’s and dietitian’s dietary advice, and take the proper medications in order to have fewer and milder attacks of pancreatitis.