Acute pancreatitis is where the pancreas becomes inflamed over a short period. The pancreas is a small gland behind the stomach that helps digestion.
Most people with acute pancreatitis will start feeling better within a week and have zero further problems. But some might develop severe acute pancreatitis that may lead to serious complications. The condition differs from chronic pancreatitis (where the pancreas will be permanently damaged over inflammation for many years).
Acute pancreatitis symptoms
The primary symptom of acute pancreatitis is severe pain in the center of your abdomen. The aching pain often gets worse and travels to the back. The other common symptoms are:
- Sickness or vomiting
- High body temperature (fever)
- Yellowing of the skin or the whites of the eyes (the symptom is less evident on black or brown skin)
- Rapid breathing or fast heart rate
Drinking or eating might feel worse quickly, specifically if you eat fatty foods.
Lying flat on the back can worsen the pain while leaning forward can help relieve the pain.
Acute pancreatitis causes
The primary causes of the condition are gallstones and alcohol abuse.
- Gallstones: They are small stones from your gallbladder, which often trigger acute pancreatitis by blocking the opening of the pancreas.
- Alcohol abuse
- High blood fat levels
- Injury or accidental damage to the pancreas (during gallstones removal procedure)
- Medications’ side effects
- Viruses, such as measles or mumps
- High blood calcium levels
- Autoimmune pancreatitis
You are more likely to develop severe pancreatitis if you:
- Are obese or overweight
- Are over the age of 70
- Have two or more alcoholic drinks
- Family history of pancreatitis
Acute pancreatitis treatments
The condition is often treatable in a hospital, where you will be monitored for symptoms of severe problems. The treatments usually focus on oxygen and fluids. Other possible treatments include:
- Nutritional support
People with mild acute pancreatitis usually get better within a week.
Reviewed by – Dr. Priyanka, MBBS MD Microbiology
Page last reviewed: 16 JULY 2022