What is pancreatitis?
Pancreatitis is a rare disease in which the pancreas becomes inflamed. Pancreatic damage occurs when the digestive enzymes are activated and begin attacking the pancreas.
Acute pancreatitis is a sudden inflammation of the pancreas that occurs over a short period of time. In more than 80 percent of the cases, acute pancreatitis is caused by bile duct stones or heavy alcohol use. Other causes include medications and very rarely, infections, trauma, metabolic disorders, and surgery. In about 10 to 15 percent of the cases, the cause of acute pancreatitis is unknown. The severity of acute pancreatitis may range from mild abdominal discomfort to a severe, life-threatening illness. However, the majority of patients with acute pancreatitis (greater than 80 percent) recover completely after receiving the appropriate treatment.
Most patients with acute pancreatitis have upper abdominal pain that radiates (spreads) to their backs. Patients may describe this as a “boring sensation” that is primarily aggravated by eating and slowly becomes worse. Their abdomens may be swollen and very tender. Patients may also have associated nausea, vomiting, fever, and an increased heart rate.