Pancreatitis can be difficult to diagnose. Acute pancreatitis may appear as a sharp pain in your upper abdomen then fade away in a couple of days. By the time you decide to visit your physician, the pain could be gone and be attributed to heartburn. Chronic pancreatitis is not so forgiving. Pain may extend to the back, fever and nausea can set in and the symptoms only worsen over time. This is not a time to self-diagnose. Pancreatitis can be deadly if not found and treated. The more that you can learn about this condition, the easier it will be to recognize the signs of a problem with your pancreas. With proper diagnosis and treatment, you can learn to live with chronic problems of the pancreas. Here are 5 important and frequently asked questions about the pancreas, why pancreatitis occurs and what steps to take to live a healthy life once you have been diagnosed.
1. What does your pancreas do?
A. Every organ in your body has a significant purpose and the pancreas is no different. The pancreas is part of the digestive system. The main purpose of the pancreas is to secrete hormones into the bloodstream to control your sugar levels. It also secretes digestive juices to aid in keeping the endocrine system healthy and balanced.
2. Can you live without your pancreas?
A: It is possible to live without the pancreas in some instances. However, many life changes have to be made. Without the pancreas, you will automatically become a Type 1 Diabetic. You will also have to take medication to replace the enzymes that are no longer being produced. Many months of getting your body used to living without a pancreas will take place. It can also take a lot of trial and error to get the right amount of hormones and enzymes into your system on a daily basis.
3. Why did I get pancreatitis?
A: There are many reasons why one person may be more susceptible to pancreatitis than the next. The first is genetics. Having a close relative with some type of pancreatitis makes you more vulnerable to also getting this condition. The cationic trypsinogen gene can be inherited. This is the isolated gene that is responsible for pancreatitis. Another cause is drinking alcohol in excess. It is unknown what the specific relationship between drinking and pancreatitis is, but facts do not lie when drinkers are found to be prone to pancreatitis. Gallstones have been found to block the opening of the pancreas. Removing the gallbladder can eliminate this problem. Certain medications can also cause pancreatitis.
4. How do I know if I am suffering from pancreatitis?
A: There is almost always pain and nausea associated with pancreatitis. Acute pancreatitis may go away after a couple of days. Chronic pancreatitis, on the other hand, will only get worse. Only your physician can conduct specific tests through lab work and imaging to determine the correct diagnosis. Depending on the severity of the condition, you may be treated with medicine or may find yourself in the hospital to receive intravenous fluids to help with recovery. A low-fat diet is usually recommended to help prevent future occurrences.
5. What will happen if I ignore the symptoms?
A: If left untreated, pancreatitis can lead to other medical problems. Respiratory problems, kidney failure and malnutrition are the most prominent. Long range conditions like pancreatic cancer, cystic fibrosis and susceptibility to infections are possible. Pancreatitis is not a condition that will heal itself. If you feel that you may have the signs of pancreatitis, make an appointment with your family doctor and discuss your symptoms. The sooner that you are able to begin a treatment program, the sooner you can be on your way to recovery.