Saturday, May 21, 2011

Common Pancreatic Problems Overview

Causes of Pancreas Problems

The pancreatic problems are caused mostly due to inflammation or enlargement of the pancreas. The other causes of problems with pancreas include alcohol, drugs, cigarette smoking, gallstones and injury to pancreas.

There are several disorders related to the pancreas. The following is the list of main pancreas problems:

  • Acute Pancreatitis
  • Chronic Pancreatitis
  • Diabetes Mellitus or Type 2 Diabetes
  • Pancreatic Cancer

Let us have a look at the signs and problems. While the pancreatic cancer is the most severe and deadly disease among them, we will not include it on this post, as it is discussed in more details in other sections of this blog.

Severe abdominal pain is the most significant pancreas problem symptom. It is commonly observed in all pancreas problems. The following are symptoms of pancreas problems in detail.

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Pancreatitis is the inflammation of the pancreas caused by the active enzymes in the pancreas. The enzymes tend to damage the same tissues which produce them, which leads to pancreatitis. Pancreatitis is of two types, acute as well as chronic pancreatitis. In acute pancreatitis, there is sudden inflammation of the pancreas resulting in pain, whereas, in case of chronic pancreatitis, recurrent inflammation is observed.

Symptoms of Acute Pancreatitis

Pancreatitis, a condition causing inflammation of the pancreas, can come on suddenly and without warning. Your stomach may become swollen and tender. It is common to experience nausea and vomiting. It is also likely that you will run a fever, a sign that your body is trying to heal itself. One of the more specific symptoms of pancreatitis is pain in the upper abdomen that radiates to the back. This pain is often severe and can be made worse by eating, especially fatty foods. Patients with acute pancreatitis generally look unwell and are suffering from more than just a sore abdomen.

Acute Pancreatitis Symptoms List:
  • Severe pain in upper abdomen
  • Increased heart rate (rapid pulse)
  • Vomiting
  • Dehydration
  • Pale skin
  • Fever and sweating
  • Illness
  • Anxiety
  • Tender abdomen
  • Swelling in abdomen

Pancreatitis can be caused by a variety of factors, including gallstones. If gallstones are the problem, you might also experience symptoms related to them. Gallbladder pain is usually felt in the upper-right quadrant of the abdomen, with pain sometimes radiating to the back, especially between the shoulder blades.

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Symptoms of Chronic Pancreatitis

Pancreatitis can also be a chronic condition. Many of the symptoms are similar to those of acute pancreatitis. There are also additional symptoms that are caused by the chronic malfunction of the pancreas. Weight loss, for example, is one possible sign that you have a pancreatic disorder. The pancreas is required to produce enzymes for proper digestion. Insufficient enzymes can lead to malabsorption, and it is common to experience weight loss as a symptom of chronic pancreatitis.

Chronic Pancreatitis Symptoms Lis:
  • Frequent and repeated pain in stomach
  • Loss of weight
  • Fatty, oily substance in stools
  • Diarrhea
  • Nausea
  • Malabsorption

Another possible symptom is diabetes which can result when the insulin-secreting cells of the pancreas are damaged. It generally takes some time for the cells to be affected. Symptoms of diabetes suggest that you are probably already in the advanced stages of chronic pancreatitis.

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Diabetes Mellitus

 One cause of diabetes mellitus is insufficient insulin. Insulin is a hormone produced by the pancreas. In some people these insulin-producing cells die off for no apparent reason. In other cases, the pancreas produces sufficient quantities of insulin but the body seems unable to actually use the insulin. In both cases, the body is not able to process glucose properly. This is what causes diabetes.

One of the first signs of diabetes is typically increased thirst. This is often accompanied by frequent urination. Other symptoms you might experience include mood changes, weight loss, fatigue, increased appetite and abdominal pain.

Diabetes Mellitus Symptoms List:
  • Frequent urination
  • Excess thirst
  • Fatigue
  • Tiredness

Pancreatic Exhaustion and Failure

Unhealthy diets have a lot to do with pancreatic problems. Eating too many sugars such as candies, cookies, cakes, pastas and even breads, can cause an overload of sugar in the body. As the body breaks down these sugars it does it in such a rapid pace, it creates blood sugar imbalances, that can lead to diseases like diabetes. This rapid rise and fall process of high to low blood sugar levels due to diabetes, leads to the deterioration of the pancreas and eventually pancreatic exhaustion, which can be prevented by eating a proper diet.

Because the pancreas’s main job is to regulate blood sugar, it is common for the pancreas to become exhausted for those who have diabetes. Once the pancreas has exhausted itself by working so hard to break down sugars, it will stop producing insulin hormones altogether, making it impossible for the body to break down sugar at all.

Enlarged Pancreas

An enlarged pancreas can happen for a number of reasons, simply it means that the pancreas is above the average size; however, it’s the reason why it may be bigger than normal is where the questions lies. Like other organs in the body, the pancreas can develop diseases such as Pancreatitis, acute pancreatitis, chronic pancreatitis,  pancreatic pseudocyst, Cystadenoma, abscess, and pancreatic cancer which are all causes for an enlarged pancreas.

Alternatively, tumors, diabetes and enzyme deficiency, also cause an enlargement in the pancreas. The symptoms of an enlarged pancreas are nausea and vomiting, diarrhea, weight loss, fever, rapid pulse, pain in the upper abdomen and jaundice. Sometimes an enlarged pancreas may bring about no symptoms at all, making it impossible for early detection.

Other Symptoms of Pancreatic Problems

There are other conditions of the pancreas that may be causing your symptoms. Pancreatic cysts cause some of the same symptoms as pancreatitis, including abdominal pain, nausea and vomiting. In addition, you might be able to feel a mass in your upper abdomen which suggests cysts of the pancreas. Also, while weight loss can be caused by chronic pancreatitis, it can also be a sign of pancreatic enzyme insufficiency. This is particularly true when you are suffering from diarrhea as well.

Sources and Additional Information:

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