Pancreatitis – what is it, and how is it treated?

There are plenty of organs in the body that most people know about, and what those organs do. The brain is where we do our thinking, our hearts keep us alive by pumping blood and our stomach processes what we eat. But what about other organs, like the liver or the kidneys? What exactly do they do?

One important organ within our abdomen is the pancreas, but very few people know what the pancreas actually does. Additionally, nearly all of us will have heard of the condition ‘pancreatitis’, but again few of us know what pancreatitis actually is, how serious it is, and how it is treated.

Prepare to be educated about the pancreas and pancreatitis!

What is the pancreas? What does it do?

The pancreas is a small but important organ that plays a key role in digestion. It’s about six inches in length and can typically be found behind the stomach.

The pancreas does a couple of important jobs. First, it creates digestive juices that the body uses to break down various foods, and in particular fats. Secondly, it produces a number of hormones, including insulin. Hormones are chemical messengers that tell the rest of the body to perform certain functions. For example during puberty hormones are released that tell the body to grow and to cause the sexual organs to mature.

Insulin is very important as it controls the amount of sugar in the blood. The body uses sugar as energy. If you produce too much or too little insulin then your body cannot control the amount of sugar in your bloodstream, leading to potential life-threatening conditions.

What is pancreatitis? How serious is it? How is it treated?

Pancreatitis is inflammation of the pancreas. The pancreas can become inflamed by heavy alcohol use, gall stones (cholesterol deposits), medication and other factors, including unknown factors.

Symptoms of pancreatitis include abdominal pain (back pain that is not muscular pain), abdominal swelling, nausea, vomiting, fever and increased heart rate. Acute symptoms include constant pain, diarrhea and weight loss.

Patients with pancreatitis usually respond well to treatment and make a full recovery. If left untreated, pancreatitis can lead to internal bleeding, tissue damage, infection and the formation of cysts. Rarely is pancreatitis fatal, but it can be.

The typical treatment for pancreatitis is simply rest and treatment via antibiotics. In some cases, if gallstones are affecting the normal operation of the pancreas or if tissue damage has been detected or caused by infection, then your doctor may refer you to a gastroenterologist for surgery.

Pancreatitis is just one of the pancreatic diseases that we can treat

At Great Lakes Gastroenterology we treat every patient’s case as an individual one, meaning that you have the best of our intentions at all times. All our medical staff are superbly trained to make sure that your care has been placed into the best hands possible.

If you have any concerns or if you would like to learn more about what we are able to do for you, we would encourage you to reach out to our team today at (440) 205-1225 to schedule an appointment.

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