What is Pancreatitis?
This disease, which affects women more commonly, is due to unknown causes. It appears to be associated frequently (in about 30 per cent of cases) with gallstones and liver disease. Some claim that excess bile production tracks back along the tube that conveys pancreatic juices to the bowel (the pancreatic duct) and causes local interference with normal functioning in the pancreas. It occurs in acute alcoholism and after abdominal surgery.
Pancreatitis Symptoms
There is severe abdominal pain, particularly in the epigastric area (just below the breastbone). This may radiate to the back, and may be associated with signs of peripheral circulatory collapse. Paleness, coldness, low blood pressure and a fast-beating heart are the symptoms when this occurs. The abdominal wall becomes rigidly hard and the patient may turn blue (cyanosis). Diagnosis is often difficult, for the condition may mimic other serious abdominal emergencies. However, a blood test that gives a rise in serum amylase is often diagnostic. More recently needle biopsy is being used in the United Kingdom.
Pancreatitis Treatment
This is unsatisfactory, and due to the acute nature will usually be carried out in hospital under specialist guidance. In recent years certain drugs appear to be of value, but none is established as being useful in all cases.
Rest, intravenous fluids and pain-relieving medication are given. There is an appreciable mortality rate (about 10 per cent or more) and recurrences are likely.