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Chronic Pancreatitis

Chronic pancreatitis is painful disease caused by recurrent and/or persistent inflammation (irritation) of the pancreas, an organ located behind your stomach. The pancreas produces enzymes that help you digest food. However, in the setting of chronic inflammation, these enzymes become activated within the pancreas, leading to recurrent damage and scar tissue formation. The ducts that direct these enzymes out of the pancreas can also become blocked with scar tissue or stones, further exacerbating the condition and contributing to symptoms of pain.

Pancreatitis is a painful condition. Pain is located in the upper abdomen and the upper portion of the back. Pain associated with chronic pancreatitis can be recurrent or long-lasting. It may get worse when you eat or drink. Pancreatitis also causes digestive symptoms like diarrhea, oily stools, nausea, bloating, weight loss and dehydration. As chronic pancreatitis progresses you may become diabetic and develop vitamin deficiencies.

Chronic Pancreatitis can be caused by a variety of conditions, such as:

  • Alcohol
  • Smoking
  • Severe acute pancreatitis
  • Repeated attacks of acute pancreatitis from gallstones, elevated triglycerides, medications, elevated calcium levels
  • Genetic mutations in such genes as cystic fibrosis transmembrane conductance regulator (CFTR), trypsinogen gene (PRSS1), serine protease inhibitor Kazal-type 1 (SPINK1)
  • Autoimmune disease
  • Congenital abnormalities of the pancreatic or bile ducts

Your physician can diagnose pancreatitis by identifying elevated pancreas enzyme levels in the blood and pancreatic abnormalities on imaging procedures such as X-ray, MRI and ultrasound. Pancreatitis can be a difficult disease to diagnose and treat. In some cases, you may need an endoscopic procedure to diagnoses and/or manage your condition. A physician guides a long, flexible tube with a camera on the end down into your stomach and other digestive organs to check for and treat abnormalities in your pancreas.

When you experience a flare of you pancreatitis, you may:

  • Need to be hospitalized so that your pain can be managed
  • Need to follow special nutrition guidelines to allow the pancreas time to rest and heal
  • A liquid diet for days or weeks, with slow reintroduction of solid foods under close supervision
  • Receive nutritional supplements through a specialized feeding tube or IV for days or weeks

At Indiana University Health, our physicians help you identify, understand and manage the underlying conditions that cause pancreatitis. Lifestyle changes, such as not drinking, not smoking and eating a healthy diet, help decrease your risk for pancreatitis.

One of the most serious symptoms of chronic pancreatitis is pain. You may experience the pain from the condition itself or from treatments, such as surgery or transplant, aimed at curing the condition.

Our gastroenterology specialists collaborate with our expert pain specialists to give you comprehensive relief to pancreatitis complications with therapies including medicines, physical therapy and nerve blocks. We can help you manage your condition by referring you to specialists who guide you through depression, diet changes or alcohol abstinence.

Our physicians have many years of experience and fellowship training in chronic pain treatment. We have expertise in physical medicine, neurology and anesthesia, giving you the resources you need to find a pain management solution that works for your individual condition and lifestyle. We work as a team, focusing on improving your quality of life, reducing pain and preventing loss of function.

How We Can Help

How We Can Help

Chronic Pancreatitis Treatment Information

We offer advanced therapies for treating chronic pancreatitis and managing the symptoms that go along with it, including pain management.

Chronic Pancreatitis Locations & Physicians

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Chronic Pancreatitis Support Services

Visit the websites below to find more information on chronic pancreatitis and its symptoms: