Need to know how to know if your pancreas is inflamed? Pancreatitis is a potentially serious condition that can be treated, but you need to know when your pancreas is inflamed so you can get prompt medical attention and ensure a smooth recovery. An inflamed pancreas is usually a sign of an underlying condition, such as gallstones, tumors or cancer. Heavy alcohol use, abdominal trauma, some medications and infections are common causes of acute pancreatitis. Heavy alcohol use over a long period of time can also cause chronic pancreatitis, which can also be a symptom of cystic fibrosis, hypercalcemia (high calcium levels in the blood) and certain autoimmune diseases. When your pancreas is inflamed, you may experience the following symptoms:
- Pain in the upper abdomen. Sudden or gradual pain that begins in the upper abdomen and extends to the back, lasts for several days and gets worse after eating is a sign that your pancreas is inflamed.
- Tenderness and swelling. If your abdomen is tender to the touch and you notice some swelling, seek medical attention.
- Weight loss. Losing weight despite having a normal appetite is always cause for concern—and for seeing your doctor. When your pancreas is inflamed, it doesn’t secrete enough pancreatic enzymes to digest food, which results in weight loss.
- Changes in bowel habits. Diarrhea and/or oily stools are also a sign that your pancreas is inflamed.
- Fever, nausea and vomiting. While these are also symptoms of other, less serious conditions, you should see your doctor if they accompany any of the other symptoms noted.
Acute pancreatitis can develop into a chronic and potentially damaging inflammation of the pancreas if you fail to seek medical attention in its early stages. A short hospital stay for IV fluids, medication and antibiotics usually remedies the condition unless any unforeseen complications arise. Chronic inflammation of the pancreas requires a much longer hospital stay and may require administering synthetic pancreatic enzymes in case the pancreas is not producing enough enzymes on its own, as well as dietary modifications to promote weight gain.