The term pancreatitis means inflammation of the pancreas. The pancreas is an organ in the abdomen that makes digestive juices and insulin. Normally, the digestive juices are emptied into the bowel to help digest food. When the pancreas is injured, the digestive juices irritate and even digest the pancreas itself. This may cause moderate to severe abdominal pain, nausea (upset stomach) and vomiting.
The most common causes of pancreatitis are gallstones, alcohol and medications. There are many other causes of pancreatitis but they are uncommon.
If possible, the cause of the pancreatitis should be removed. Thereafter the treatment of pancreatitis is mainly supportive care. This means the patient receives medical supportive care while the inflammation of the pancreas heals. Pain control, nutrition and watching the patient for infection in the pancreas and other parts of the body are the main concerns. In the most severe cases of pancreatitis, patients may require surgery to remove permanently damaged pancreas tissue or infection of the pancreas.
Currently, there is no immediate cure for pancreatitis. Some patients heal quickly while others may heal over a period of months. If a patient requires nutrition support, it is usually given IV. Rarely, pancreatitis may cause injury to other organs of the body such as the lung, kidneys and liver. If this occurs, pancreatitis may be life threatening.
Related LinksNational Library of Medicine
The National Library of Medicine presents information and pictures about pancreatitis.