11 Symptoms of Pancreatitis

The pancreas is a vital organ that helps with digestion and blood sugar regulation with the hormone insulin. This occurs when the pancreas becomes inflamed due to activation of digestive enzymes in the pancreas before they are supposed to be released into the small intestine. It can either be acute or chronic, both of which require medical attention and follow-up.

Acute pancreatitis can range in severity from mild to serious and usually lasts for several days. Regardless of severity, it is recommended that you receive immediate medical attention if the symptoms below occur, as it can be fatal. Gallstones that block the bile duct and impede with the functioning of the pancreas are the most common cause to this condition. Other causes include high triglyceride levels, medication, high calcium levels, and heavy alcohol use. This condition is typically diagnosed with a blood test, ultrasound of the abdomen, endoscopic ultrasound, and/or imaging tests (such as a CT or MRI). This type is temporary in nature and does not typically last for more than several weeks.

1. Upper Abdominal Pain

Upper abdominal pain is the most prominent symptom of acute pancreatitis. Patients most commonly report pain on the upper left side and/or middle of the abdomen, which is typically the area below the breastbone or sternum.

The course of abdominal pain can vary based on the cause and the individual patient. Pancreatic inflammation due to gallstones usually consists of pain that develops more suddenly, whereas inflammation due to heavy alcohol use develops more slowly over several days. Pain can occur within minutes after eating or drinking, particularly if the items have high contents of fat. Abdominal pain can also occur within 12 to 24 hours after a large meal or period of heavy drinking. Pain typically becomes more constant and increases in severity over time as it progresses. However, abdominal pain can also subside in some cases as the condition advances because the pancreas is no longer making digestive enzymes.

Although pain is often localized to the upper abdomen, some patients experience pain that radiates down the back as well. Certain individuals experience increased severity of pain when lying on their back. The stomach may also become distended (or swollen) and patients with this condition can experience tenderness in their abdomen.