What is pancreatitis: symptoms, causes, and treatment

Earlier this week, Travis Barker, the longtime Blink-182 drummer and husband to Kourtney Kardashian, was carried out of his Los Angeles mansion on a stretcher to a local hospital after being diagnosed with pancreatitis. Barker’s pancreas became inflamed following a colonoscopy procedure.

The musician’s health scare has left many wondering what pancreatitis is and how to treat it. According to the Mayo Clinic, pancreatitis occurs when the pancreas, a flat gland behind the stomach in the upper abdomen, is inflamed. The pancreas is vital for the body to process sugar through digestion and hormones. The pancreas becomes inflamed when these digestive fluids attack the organ instead of regulating the body’s blood sugar levels. 

Acute pancreatitis is a mild form of the condition that occurs suddenly and only for a short time. However, chronic pancreatitis is long-lasting and can lead to death without proper medical attention. Chronic may appear randomly over the course of many years while causing severe discomfort to the body. 

What are the symptoms?

Symptoms for individuals differ based on the type of pancreatitis. The acute version causes pain in the upper abdominal, abdominal pain throughout the back, tenderness when touching the abdomen, fever, rapid pulse, nausea, and vomiting. 

However, chronic pancreatitis is more life-threatening and can cause more severe damage to the body. Common symptoms include upper abdominal pain, abdominal pain that increases after digestion, unexplained weight loss, and oily, smelly stools, according to Mayo Clinic. It is recommended that individuals make an appointment with their doctor for acute or chronic abdominal pain and seek immediate attention if the pain caused by pancreatitis makes it impossible to sit or stand still.

What are the causes?

When digestive enzymes are triggered, pancreatitis occurs from irritated cells in the pancreas, causing the organ to inflame. Some habits and conditions that cause pancreatitis include alcoholism, abdominal injury, obesity, high levels of triglyceride in the blood, and gallstones. Moreover, untreated acute pancreatitis may become chronic and lead to digestion problems and diabetes. 

Other factors such as a family history of pancreatitis, excessive cigarette usage, and alcohol consumption may increase an individual’s risk of pancreatitis. 

How do you treat it? 

Depending on an individual’s condition, medical professionals will ovulate and treat the underlining cause of pancreatitis differently in some cases. However, some early treatments include slimming down your daily diet to allow your body to recover. Doctors may also prescribe patients suffering from pancreatitis pain medication if the condition is severe. If an individual is admitted to a hospital, intravenous (IV) fluids will be injected through a vein in the arm to avoid dehydration until the pancreas recovers.