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You are here : 3-RX.com > Medical Encyclopedia > Diseases and Conditions > Pancreatitis


Overview, Causes, & Risk Factors | Symptoms & Signs | Diagnosis & Tests | Prevention & Expectations | Treatment & Monitoring

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 stomach.

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:

  • gallstones
  • biliary tract disease, or disorders of the tubes draining bile from the gallbladder
  • peptic ulcers
  • alcoholism
  • 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.


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    Pancreatitis: Symptoms & Signs

    Author: Gail Hendrickson, RN, BS
    Reviewer: Eileen McLaughlin, RN, BSN
    Date Reviewed: 07/05/01

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