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Pancreatitis refers to acute or chronic inflammation of the pancreas.

Types: Acute pancreatitis does not last long and eventually heals completely. Chronic pancreatitis is considered irreversible and causes degenerative cellular changes within the pancreas that continue and progress even after the cause, usually, alcohol is removed.

Some people with acute pancreatitis experience little to no symptoms, whereas others experience severe abdominal pain that stabs outward into the back. The pain usually begins without warning, reaching maximum severity within several minutes, and then persists for hours or days (usually no more than 48 hours). The pain is relieved by sitting and made worse with movement, and can be accompanied by nausea, vomiting, sweating, increased heart rate, and dizziness.

Symptoms of chronic pancreatitis are similar to those of acute pancreatitis, but they typically last longer and are recurring, increasing in severity as the disease progresses.

One of the primary causes of acute pancreatitis is excess alcohol consumption. Abstaining from alcohol can help prevent future attacks from occurring. Chronic pancreatitis is often by gallbladder problems, such as gallstones. Other causes include liver problems, being overweight or obese, nutritional deficiencies, and/or the use of pharmaceutical medications.

Note: In some people, the only indications of pancreatitis are poor digestion and assimilation of food due to the pancreas being unable to release sufficient amounts of pancreatin, an enzyme involved in the digestive process (evidence of this happening is a pale-colored, bulky, greasy stool) and/or diabetes, due to the inability of the pancreas to produce enough insulin.

Future episodes of acute pancreatitis can be prevented by addressing the cause or causes. Chronic pancreatitis, on the other hand, can require insulin shots, as well as a dietary and a program aimed at balancing blood sugar levels and supporting pancreatic function. A liver and gallbladder detoxification program may also be advised. In some cases, surgery may be necessary to remove the pancreas.

Chronic pancreatitis requires professional medical care.