What are the Most Common Causes of Pancreatic Pain?

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  • Written By: Dulce Corazon
  • Edited By: C. Wilborn
  • Last Modified Date: 12 November 2019
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The most common causes of pancreatic pain are mostly due to inflammations and diseases in the pancreas. Pancreatic pain is often described as pain felt in the upper abdomen and sometimes in the upper back. The pancreas is an organ located inside the abdomen. It is responsible for the production of hormones like insulin and glucagon, which are important in the regulation of glucose in the body, as well as the secretion of digestive enzymes or juices needed for the break down of food in the intestines.

Pancreatic pain is often felt when there is pancreas inflammation or pancreatitis. Pancreatitis may either be acute or chronic. Acute pancreatitis occurs suddenly and resolves in a matter of days; however, it can be life threatening. Causes include gallstones or stones in the gallbladder, long term alcohol drinking, and trauma or direct injury to the pancreas. Aside from pancreatic pain, other symptoms manifested by patients with acute pancreatitis are nausea, vomiting, fever, and low blood pressure and dehydration, if the case is severe.


Chronic pancreatitis, on the other hand, is inflammation of the pancreas which does not heal or resolve relatively quickly. The disease frequently gets worse and may cause permanent damage to the pancreas. Digestive juices can attack the pancreas, resulting in frequent episodes of pancreatic pain. Individuals affected with chronic pancreatitis are generally between 30 and 40 years old. Factors leading to chronic pancreatitis include hyperlipidemia, or very high levels of fats in the blood; hypercalcemia, or high calcium in the blood; and genetic predisposition which may present with pancreatitis at an earlier age, often before 30 years old.

Pancreatic cancer can also manifest with pancreatic pain. Risk factors in developing pancreatic cancer include genetic predisposition, smoking, older age, and diet. Other symptoms include jaundice or yellowing of the eyes and skin, loss of appetite, sudden weight loss, nausea, and vomiting.

Pseudocysts in the pancreas are abnormal collections of dead tissues, fluids, and digestive juices which can develop into a painful mass inside the pancreas. After an attack of acute pancreatitis, pseudocysts sometimes develop. Factors increasing the risk for pseudocysts formation include alcoholism, gallstones, and direct trauma to the abdomen. Symptoms include pancreatic pain, fever, diarrhea, nausea, vomiting, and jaundice. A painful mass is also frequently felt in the abdomen of patients with pseudocysts.

Treatment of pancreatic diseases causing pancreatic pain often involve hospitalization for pain management and hydration. Lifestyle changes are often necessary in the management of the disease. This includes stopping smoking and drinking alcohol, as well as diet regulation.



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