Pancreatic Disease

The pancreas is a narrow, flat organ located in the abdomen below the liver and between the stomach and the spine. It is surrounded by other organs such as small intestine, liver and spleen. The head section of the pancreas connects to the duodenum. The main functions of the pancreas into the body is divided into two parts. The exocrine functions and the endocrine functions.


Exocrine functions: Enzymes produced by exocrine glands present in the pancreas are responsible for various digestive functions. For example, Trypsin and chymotrypsin are responsible for protein digestion. Amylase is for carbohydrates digestion and lipase is responsible for the fat breakdown.

Endocrine functions: Islets of Langerhans, an important endocrine component of the pancreas, releases hormones having the major functions. For example, insulin and glucagon released from islets cells act by lowering blood sugar and raise blood sugar respectively.

Pancreatitis: Pancreatitis refers to the inflammation of the pancreas. Nausea, vomiting, pain in the upper abdomen are the common symptoms of pancreatitis. Alcohol consumption and gallstones are the main cause of inflammation.

Acute pancreatitis: Starts with the fever and symptoms may resolve within a few days in most of the cases.

Chronic pancreatitis: Chronic alcohol consumption is the main cause of chronic pancreatitis. Symptoms start with the weight loss fatty stool and diarrhoea. It may develop as a result of acute pancreatitis.

Pain relief medications and antibiotics are prescribed by the doctor in case of inflammation of the pancreas. Surgical procedures are preferred in case of severe pancreatitis.

Diabetes mellitus: Diabetes mellitus is a disorder characterized by high glucose level in the blood. It may lead to most of the serious complications if left untreated. These complications are:

Diabetic ketoacidosis, kidney disease, diabetic foot ulcer, brain stroke, diabetic retinopathy etc. Diabetes can be divided into two main types: Type 1 (Insulin dependent) and type II (insulin independent). Diabetes is not curable but can be prevented by maintaining normal body weight, physical exercise and consuming healthy food.

Insulin injections are the only treatment of type I diabetes mellitus. Medication like metformin is considered as the first line treatment for Type II diabetes.

Cystic fibrosis: It is an inherited or genetic disorder that mostly affects the lungs. It also affects pancreas, intestine, kidney and liver. Long term complications include breathing difficulties and mucus formation.

Pancreatic cysts: Cysts in the pancreas are the fluid-filled sacs into the pancreas and they might be cancerous. Symptoms do not occur in most of the conditions. In these conditions, cysts can be diagnosed by imaging such as CT and MRI. Occasional symptoms include abdominal pain and jaundice. Mucinous cystic neoplasm, solid pseudopapillary neoplasm and serous cystadenoma are the different types of pancreatic cysts. Surgery might be needed to remove cysts from the pancreas.

Pancreatic cancer: Pancreatic cancer is the leading cause of mortality. The risk factors of pancreatic cancer include smoking, chronic pancreatitis, age, and exposure to some industrial chemicals. These cancers mainly develop in exocrine tissues. Abdominal pain, loss of appetite, nausea and sometimes jaundice are the main symptoms of pancreatic cancer. The treatment of pancreatic cancer depends on its stages. Surgery in early-stage cancer, chemotherapy and radiation therapies for the metastatic stage are the beneficial treatments of Pancreatic cancer.

Pancreatic insufficiency: It is a condition involve the deficiency of exocrine pancreatic enzymes, as a result, digestive problems or maldigestion. A low-fat diet, vitamins and mineral supplements, Pancreatic enzyme replacement therapy are the treatment procedure when a person is suffering from exocrine pancreatic insufficiency. Along with taking these three main steps, excess drinking of alcoholic beverages and smoking should also be avoided as these habits can damage the pancreas.

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