Chronic pancreatitis - chronic; Pancreatitis - chronic - discharge; Pancreatic insufficiency - chronic; Acute pancreatitis - chronic
Pancreatitis is swelling of the pancreas. Chronic pancreatitis is present when this problem does not heal or improve, gets worse over time, and leads to permanent damage.
The pancreas is an organ located behind the stomach. It produces chemicals (called enzymes) needed to digest food. It also produces the hormones insulin and glucagon.
When scarring of the pancreas occurs, the organ is no longer able to make the right amount of these enzymes. As a result, your body may be unable to digest fat and key elements of food.
Damage to the parts of the pancreas that make insulin may lead to diabetes.
The condition is most often caused by alcohol abuse over many years. Repeated episodes of acute pancreatitis can lead to chronic pancreatitis. Genetics may be a factor in some cases. Sometimes, the cause is not known.
Other conditions that have been linked to chronic pancreatitis:
Chronic pancreatitis occurs more often in men than in women. The condition often develops in people ages 30 to 40.
Tests to diagnose pancreatitis include:
Tests that may show the cause of pancreatitis include:
Imaging tests that can show swelling, scarring, or other changes of the pancreas may be seen on:
ERCP is short for endoscopic retrograde cholangiopancreatography. It is a procedure that looks at the bile ducts. It is done through an endoscope.
People with severe pain or who are losing weight may need to stay in the hospital for:
The right diet is important for people with chronic pancreatitis to keep a healthy weight and get the correct nutrients. A nutritionist can help you create a diet that includes:
The health care provider may prescribe pancreatic enzymes. You must take these medicines with every meal. The enzymes will help you digest food better and gain weight.
Avoid smoking and drinking alcoholic beverages, even if your pancreatitis is mild.
Other treatments may involve:
Surgery may be recommended if a blockage is found. In severe cases, part or all of the pancreas may be removed.
This is a serious disease that may lead to disability and death. You can reduce the risk by avoiding alcohol.
Complications may include:
Call your provider if:
Determining the cause of acute pancreatitis and treating it quickly may help prevent chronic pancreatitis. Limiting the amount of alcohol you drink can reduce your risk of getting this condition.
Forsmark CE. Pancreatitis. In: Goldman L, Schafer AI, eds. Goldman's Cecil Medicine. 25th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier Saunders; 2016:chap 144.
Fosmark CE. Chronic pancreatitis. In: Feldman M, Friedman LS, Brandt LJ, eds. Sleisenger and Fordtran's Gastrointestinal and Liver Disease. 10th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier Saunders; 2016:chap 59.
Last reviewed on: 10/27/2015
Reviewed by: Subodh K. Lal, MD, gastroenterologist at Gastrointestinal Specialists of Georgia, Austell, GA. Review provided by VeriMed Healthcare Network. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Isla Ogilvie, PhD, and the A.D.A.M. Editorial team.