The pancreas is a gland that is responsible for producing enzymes which assist in digestion, as well as hormones that regulate the processing of sugar. Pancreatitis is an inflammation of the pancreas. It can have a number of different causes, and can be mild or severe, as well as acute or chronic. The best treatment for pancreatitis is, at least in part, dependent on the cause.
Pancreatitis can be caused by alcoholism, gallstones, cigarettes, cystic fibrosis, high calcium or triglyceride levels, pancreatic cancer, an infection or ulcer, or by certain medications, in which case it is referred to as drug-induced pancreatitis. Family history of pancreatitis may be a risk factor. Some choices of treatment for pancreatitis depend on the cause. For example, if the cause is the intake of some substance over which the patient has control — whether alcohol, cigarettes, or medications — part of the treatment for pancreatitis will be to stop the intake of the exacerbating substance or substances. If the cause is some other illness or disorder, the treatment for pancreatitis is likely to involve treating that disorder: for example, the treatment of pancreatitis that arose because of gallstones might involve gallbladder surgery.
Other possible treatment for pancreatitis may involve alcohol dependence treatment because continued drinking can make pancreatitis worse. Long-term dietary changes may be required in cases of chronic pancreatitis. A prescription of pancreatic enzymes may also be required for some patients.
There are also some treatments that are generally applied to cases of pancreatitis, and vary with the severity of the inflammation rather than with the cause. These include allowing the pancreas to rest. Depending on how inflamed it is, rest may be achieved by a severely restricted diet that includes no fat or high-protein foods, and may consist primarily of clear liquids. More severe cases may require hospitalization and IV (Intravenous) fluid administration.
Complications of pancreatitis may lead to other treatment needs. The complications can be different for acute and chronic pancreatitis. For example, acute pancreatitis is associated with low levels of oxygen in the blood, pancreatic infection, pseudocyst — a cystlike entity that can form in the pancreas and be susceptible to rupture, and kidney failure. Chronic pancreatitis is associated with diabetes and pancreatic cancer. Both acute and chronic pancreatitis are associated with malnutrition due to the loss of the proper enzymes to gain nutrients from food that is eaten.