Health ailments affect all of us, but sometimes those problems hide, and they remain unnoticed over the course of some time, until they become serious enough to cause major complications. By staying educated about some of the associated symptoms of those ailments, we can protect our health, and stay functioning in our everyday lives. Pancreatitis is one of those conditions that likes to hide until it has become serious.
About the Pancreas
The pancreas is located in the center of the middle back, mostly between the stomach, and the spine. It is an organ of the lymphatic system, and it produces a lot of digestive hormones (like insulin) that regulate how we feel hunger, break down food, absorb nutrients, and excrete wastes. When pancreatitis occurs, the pancreas will quit working properly, so complications with the digestive system will arise.
What is Pancreatitis?Pancreatitis is inflammation of the pancreas caused when the digestive enzymes in the pancreas become activated before they leave the pancreas. Ultimately, the buildup of activated hormonal enzymes begin digesting the pancreas itself, which leads to the irritation. The buildup tends to occur when vessels become constricted, so blood flow traveling to and from the organ becomes reduced.
High blood pressure and alcoholism are common causes of pancreatitis. Pancreatitis can occur in different forms like acute pancreatitis, chronic pancreatitis, and levels in between.
A suddenly occurring form of pancreatitis, acute pancreatitis is likely to go unnoticed or be mistaken for simple digestion issues. The inflammation associated with acute pancreatitis is short-lived, but it can be life threatening if the breakout is too heavy. Most people recover from acute pancreatitis completely, without complications in the long term.
The more serious type of pancreatitis is chronic pancreatitis, which will build from a light, non-symptomatic pancreatitis to a full problem over time. Chronic pancreatitis will be present over a longer term, building in severity as it lingers.
Sometimes chronic pancreatitis will be a developing result of an episode of acute pancreatitis in people who do not fully recover. Also associated with alcoholism and high blood pressure, chronic pancreatitis can develop from small daily buildups of damaging enzymes, eventually leading to serious outbreaks that result in scarring. Due to the long term damage of chronic pancreatitis, people are less likely to recover, and the troubling parts of the pancreas are often removed.
Among the types of pancreatitis, most of the symptoms of pancreatitis are the same, but how quickly they progress into being life threatening will be different. In acute pancreatitis, there will be a sudden progression of the symptoms of pancreatitis, whereas in chronic pancreatitis, there will be a gradual progression of the symptoms of pancreatitis. Slightly increasing in level of seriousness, these are 10 symptoms of pancreatitis to be aware of in case they start happening to someone in your life:
Reduced Appetite/Weight Loss
A downfall in pancreatic hormone production will cause a person to feel hungry less often because the digestive processes will slow down. The metabolism will remain the same because it is mostly controlled by the thyroid, but digestion will suffer a toll. Due to the steady rate of metabolism combined with a lack of nutritional intake, weight will begin disappearing from a person with pancreas issues.
Pancreatic hormones control the digestion and absorption of fats. If the hormonal levels are disrupted by inflammation, this is one of the early symptoms of pancreatitis that will appear. The digestive system will quit breaking down fats, so the slowed absorption process will be able to intake even less fats than it already is, like a compounding issue. People will begin passing stool with a sticky, gooey consistency.
Because of improper hormone control, the bowels will quit functioning correctly. One of the problems that will occur is less movement of air through the winding tubules of the intestines because muscle contraction is reduced. Since air is not being passed through flatulence, it begins building up. Also, fluids will compile within the intestinal linings. Overall, bowel movements will start to occur less often, and the entire system can become clogged. Bloating feels like a weight sitting inside the abdomen.
Again caused by a change in hormones, the content of digestive fluids will differ, and they will be less potent than normal. Due to this, the stomach may sit longer with food inside, and acid reflux could occur. Indigestion feels like a mass is stuck in the stomach, and digestive fluids feel hot within the esophagus. This will be associated with stomach discomfort, and belching.
Since the pancreas lies next to the spine, it will create unwanted pressure if it becomes inflamed. The pressure on the spine will cause muscle spasms, cramps, and pain throughout the back, and other parts of the body. This could be serious enough to prevent walking, or it may be uncomfortable during sleep. The main area of concern is the central part of the back.
Upper Abdominal Pain
The pancreas itself will be painful due to inflammation, but from being located directly behind the stomach, the pancreas will cause stomach pains in addition to the indigestion. Pressure against the stomach will restrict the flow of fluids, and gases, like blood, and oxygen, within the stomach. The stomach can retain those fluids, and it will begin swelling. The pressure build up within the system will cause discomfort.
Pancreatitis causes processes that would usually use fluids to begin ceasing. Retained substances that are not used will start to accumulate within the abdomen, and it will cause the abdomen to swell. Swelling can be seen visibly, or felt by touch. This may feel similar to bloating, but swollen areas will start to feel tender.
Increased Heart Rate
Levels of hormones will become unmanageable in the body, and body processes outside of digestion can suffer. Hormones that regulate the heartbeat are affected. Also, the body will become excited, partially from the pain being experienced, but also from vessel constriction. Plus, a lack of nutrients will cause a flight-or-flight response. All of these aspects combined with others will drive heart rate up. Chest congestion will feel like the heart is being suffocated, and heart palpitations feel like fluttering, uneven beating.
Some of the pancreatic hormones affect the body’s control of body temperature, so as the pancreatitis become worse, body temperature will continue to become out of balance. Also, the inflammation leaves the pancreas vulnerable, and it may allow infection into the body, so as the body tries to fight the infection, body temperature will rise to produce ideal war conditions. Hot flashes and uncontrollable sweating could be other symptoms of pancreatitis.
Nausea can prevent eating, but vomiting is the major item of concern. This is the most serious one of the symptoms of pancreatitis because this will cause major loss of water, possible choking, and irritation of the esophagus. If food cannot be held down, malnutrition will incur, and nutritional deficiencies will result. This is the symptom that does the most damage to patients, and if it is not controlled, will lead to death. If symptoms of pancreatitis reach this point, intravenous fluids will be necessary to maintain the patient’s hydration.
If you are showing symptoms of pancreatitis, it is okay to feel afraid, but you should contact a doctor as soon as possible. If you are experiencing bleeding, nausea, vomiting, fever, or serious pain, you should go to the emergency room immediately. Pancreatitis has the potential to kill, because it can put a stop to proper digestion functions, which will prevent the body from receiving proper nourishment. Stay alert about your body to prevent unnecessary death.