Acute pancreatitis is an inflammation of the pancreas that occurs suddenly.

The pancreas is a large gland located behind the stomach in the upper abdomen. It is responsible for the production of digesting enzymes and hormones.

Pancreatitis occurs when enzymes normally released into the digestive tract begin to cause damage to the pancreas. The gland swells and becomes inflamed. Enzymes are released into the surrounding tissues and circulation in greater quantities. More enzymes are released into the bloodstream and surrounding tissues.

As a result, digestion becomes slow and painful. Additional bodily functions may be impacted. If attacks are severe, prolonged, or frequent, the pancreas can become permanently damaged and scarred.

It is unknown precisely why the enzymes begin to cause harm to the pancreas. However, there are a number of known causes of acute pancreatitis.

Gallstones are one of the most common causes of acute pancreatitis. Gallstones that pass through the gallbladder may obstruct the pancreatic duct. (From the pancreas to the small intestine, the pancreatic duct transports digestive enzymes.) Enzymes cannot flow normally when the pancreatic duct becomes clogged. They have a tendency to back up into the pancreas. This results in inflammation of the pancreas.

Another frequent cause of acute pancreatitis is a complication of an endoscopic retrograde cholangiopancreatography (ERCP) surgery. An endoscope is used to perform ERCP. This is a flexible tube with one end equipped with a small camera and a light and the other with an eyepiece. ERCP is used to visualize pancreatic ducts, liver, and gallbladder and to diagnose stones and tumors. The other major cause of pancreatitis is excessive alcohol consumption. The vast majority of people who consume alcohol never get pancreatitis. However, certain individuals will develop pancreatitis as a result of excessive alcohol consumption. Alcohol consumption can occur over time or in a single binge. Combining alcohol and smoking raises the risk of developing acute pancreatitis.

Pancreatitis can also be caused by the following factors:

Usage of a wide variety of medications, including Sulfa medications
Water pills (hydrochlorothiazide, others)
Immunosuppressive medications (azathioprine)
HIV medications
Abdominal surgery
Catastrophic trauma
Metabolic problems, such as elevated calcium or lipid levels in the blood
Certain infections, for example, mumps or viral hepatitis
Often, no reason can be identified.


Upper abdominal pain is the most prevalent sign of acute pancreatitis. It might be mild to severe.

The pain is typically felt in the center of the body, directly beneath the ribs. However, it might be felt on either the left or right side at times. This is a continuous, drilling, or "boring" type of pain. Radiating pain may occur in the back, flank, chest, or lower abdomen.

Pain reaches its peak severity rapidly, frequently within 30 minutes. The pain associated with alcohol-induced pancreatitis typically begins one to three days following a binge.

Finding a comfortable position may be challenging. By bending over or sleeping on your side, you may be able to alleviate the pain. Generally, eating worsens the pain.

Additional symptoms of acute pancreatitis include the following:

Vomiting and nausea
Appetite loss
Bloating in the abdomen
Fever, trouble breathing, weakness, and shock may develop in severe cases.


Your doctor will make the diagnosis of acute pancreatitis based on the following:

Your signs and symptoms
A physical examination
Certain laboratory examinations
Blood tests typically demonstrate elevated levels of two pancreatic enzymes.

A computed tomography (CT) scan may be performed in some instances. The scan can detect pancreatic swelling and fluid collection in the belly.

Additionally, the scan may reveal whether you have pancreatic pseudocysts. Pseudocysts are enzyme-filled sacs. They occur in some situations of severe pancreatitis or following a series of attacks. Severe complications can occur if the pseudocysts rupture and spill enzymes onto exposed tissues.

An ultrasound of the gallbladder may be performed if gallstones are suspected.
As you may already be aware, probiotics are live bacteria present in specific foods such as yogurt, sauerkraut, and some cheeses that are necessary for proper digestion. Consuming these meals benefits your digestive system and overall health by supporting a healthy mix of beneficial bacteria and other microorganisms in your gut microbiome, a collection of 100 trillion microscopic organisms that live in your intestines.

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No content on this site, regardless of date, should be used to replace direct medical advice from your doctor or another trained practitioner.
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