December 01, 2016

Pancreatitis

An inflamed organ

Pancreatitis

The sudden pain in your upper abdomen was so piercing that it caused you to double over. It radiated from your upper abdomen directly to your back. Lying flat made the pain worse. Curling up into a ball helped only a little. Your breathing was shallow because taking deep breaths caused even more pain.

Your doctor said your symptoms were typical of acute inflammation of the pancreas (pancreatitis). An attack of acute pancreatitis is often sudden, severe and steady. Mild cases generally improve within a week. Moderate to severe cases may require hospitalization and take longer to improve.

Inflammation of the pancreas can become chronic over time, damaging pancreatic tissue and producing intermittent episodes of pain that may build up more gradually. Chronic pancreatitis may cause serious permanent changes to the pancreas, but earlier diagnosis and evolving treatments are improving the chances of a better outcome.

Getting to know your pancreas

The pancreas is an important part of your digestive system. The organ is a long, flat gland tucked behind your stomach. The pancreatic duct connects the pancreas to the small bowel and to the common bile duct. The pancreatic juices and enzymes empty into the upper section of the small intestine.

The pancreas has two main functions. Those functions are:

  • Producing digestive juices and enzymes that break down fats, carbohydrates and proteins in the small intestine.
  • Secreting into the bloodstream the hormones that help keep blood sugar from getting too high or too low. These hormones include...