What is the Pancreas?
The pancreas is a gland organ that is located in the abdomen. It is part of the digestive system and produces important enzymes and hormones that help break down foods which then gets releases directly into the bloodstream. Enzymes, or digestive juices, produced by the pancreas are secreted into the small intestine to further break down food after it has left the stomach. The process helps regulate the body's glucose or sugar level.
Common disorders of the Pancreas
There are a variety of disorders of the pancreas including acute pancreatitis, chronic pancreatitis, hereditary pancreatitis, and pancreatic cancer.
1) Acute Pancreatitis
Acute pancreatitis begins with a sudden attack causing inflammation of the pancreas and is usually associated with severe upper abdominal pain. The pain could go on for several days. Symptoms associated with acute pancreatitis include nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, bloating and fever. It can be treated with medications and most patients with acute pancreatitis recover completely.
2) Chronic Pancreatitis
Chronic Pancreatitis are more common in men who are between 30 and 40 years of age. The symptoms are similar to acute pancreatitis such as pain the upper abdomen and diarrhea. As the disease becomes more chronic, patients can develop malnutrition and weight loss. The treatment for chronic pancreatitis depends on the symptoms.
3) Hereditary Pancreatitis
Hereditary pancreatitis is a rare genetic condition by a recurrent episodes of pancreatic attack. It is a progressive disease with a high risk of permanent problems. Patients with these disorders may developed a chronic pain, diarrhea, malnutrition, or diabetes. The treatment will focuses on pain control and pancreatic enzyme replacement.
Image source: Pancreatic Cancer Action
4) Pancreatic Cancer
Pancreatic cancer is the fourth most common cause of cancer death in men and the fifth in women. Unlike others, pancreatic cancer has a subtle way of showing its symptoms. The only symptoms includes painless jaundice and yellowish skin discolouration. This are often the reasons why it can't be treated early. If detected in the early stages, pancreatic cancer can be cured by surgical resection and can improve at the later stages.
How do you know if it’s something to worry about?
1) Severe belly (abdominal) pain with vomiting that does not go away after a few hours, or mild to moderate pain that does not improve with home treatment after a couple of days.
2) Pancreatitis can be a severe, potentially life-threatening illness. It is not appropriate to take a wait-and-see approach. If you have severe pain in the upper area of the abdomen that does not go away in a few hours, seek medical advice.
H/T: The National Pancreas Foundation
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