Pancreatitis is an inflammation or an infection of the pancreas. It may be
acute or chronic. Acute pancreatitis means that symptoms develop suddenly.
Chronic pancreatitis is a long-standing inflammation of the pancreas.
What is going on in the body?
The pancreas is a leaf-shaped gland that is located behind the stomach. It
secretes digestive enzymes and the hormones insulin and glucagon. It also
secretes sodium bicarbonate, which neutralizes the acid coming from the
In pancreatitis, the pancreatic duct gets blocked, and the flow of pancreatic
juices is impaired. These juices accumulate in the pancreas. They begin to
digest the cells of the pancreas, and cause inflammation. The pancreas is then
unable to provide the digestive enzymes and hormones needed for the rest of the
body to function normally.
What are the causes and risks of the disease?
Causes of pancreatitis include:
biliary tract disease, or disorders of the tubes draining bile from the
medications such as glucocorticoids, furosemide, and azathioprine
complications from infections, such as mumps
high blood levels of triglycerides
damage to the pancreas from surgery or trauma
cancer of the pancreas
In severe cases of pancreatitis, blood pressure may fall, causing shock. Pancreatitis can be life-threatening.