The pancreas is a small, very active organ near your stomach that renders many important functions in the body, particularly in food digestion, where it produces many important enzymes. Like any other organ, the pancreas can malfunction, leading to pancreatic diseases.
Pancreatic diseases can run the gambit from the relatively benign, such as acute alcoholic pancreatitis caused by a night of heavy drinking to the very serious, such as pancreatic cancer. While there are many diseases that can be said to be pancreatic in origin, the most common primarily pancreatic diseases include acute and chronic pancreatitis, pancreatic cancer and trauma to the pancreas. Diabetes is also in fact a disease of special cells located in the pancreas.
Pancreatic diseases can be manifested in a variety of ways. Common symptoms can include fever, abdominal pain, nausea, vomiting, and even jaundice. The diagnosis can be tricky as pancreatic diseases have many symptoms in common with a number of diseases, particularly of the stomach and liver.
The treatment for pancreatic diseases depends on the type of the disease a patient has. These again vary, depending on the disease the patient has, and can include bed rest, medications, special diets, or even surgery. It is thus important to consult a doctor for any medical advice if you think you have a pancreatic disease.
A very common pancreatic disease that brings patients to the hospital is acute pancreatitis. Pancreatitis means the pancreas is inflamed and the source of this inflammation dictates its treatment. If the source is a gallstone blocking ducts in the pancreas, surgery or invasive procedures may be required to dislodge it. Alcohol is well-known in its ability to inflame the pancreas, in which case the treatment is often just pain medications, bed rest, and restricting nutrition and fluids only through an intravenous catheter in the hospital, along with a note to drink in moderation and avoid binging and to drink in moderation.
Recurrent bouts of pancreatitis, or chronic pancreatitis, that can’t be explained simply due to alcohol or gallstones need to be evaluated by a physician more extensively for their cause because there are many rare causes which can cause chronic pancreatitis such as familial hypertriglyceridemia or cystic fibrosis or the formation of strictures in the pancreatic ducts, which then require individual therapies as well medication to provide symptomatic relief.
The surgical removal of the pancreas as a treatment is now rare thanks to advancements in medical therapy and an improvement in the understanding of pancreatic diseases. The exceptions to this are in the dire cases of massive damage to the pancreas as a result of trauma or in the case of pancreatic cancer, where a tumor in the pancreas needs to be removed to prevent it from becoming larger or invading into or spreading to other parts of the body. In such cases treatment includes replacement of pancreatic enzymes in your diet.
An often overlooked aspect in treatment is prevention. Pancreatic diseases can sometimes run in families, such as cancer or chronic pancreatitis due to familial hypertriglyceridemia. Strategies to prevent the onset of pancreatic disease or mitigate their severity through medications, testing, or dietary restriction now exist and doctors should be consulted to start the process if you believe you are at risk.
Tips and comments
There are many treatments for pancreatic diseases, depending on what specific disease the patient has. You should never attempt to treat yourself. Doctors called gastroenterologists are specialists in pancreatic diseases and maybe consulted for expert advice.
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