Behind the stomach and next to the small intestine is where the pancreas is located. It delivers insulin and glucagon, which like insulin assists the body in controlling how it processes food and energy. The pancreas also aids digestion by releasing enzymes into the small intestine.
Pancreatitis occurs when the pancreas becomes inflamed (“-itis” = “inflammation”). This often occurs when gallstones block the pancreas’ ability to release enzymes into the intestines.
There are two types of pancreatitis: acute and chronic. Acute lasts only a number of days, whereas chronic can last for years. If left untreated, pancreatitis can damage tissues and can cause bleeding, cysts, and infection. The disease can progress to harm other organs, including the heart, kidneys, and lungs.
Tests for Pancreatitis
If you are experiencing upper abdominal pain, unexplained weight loss, or unusual sensitivity when you touch your abdominal area, see a gastroenterologist right away. Tests for diagnosing pancreatitis include the following:
- Blood tests – To detect elevated levels of enzymes.
- MRI (magnetic resonance imaging) – To find abnormalities in the gallbladder, bile ducts, or pancreas.
- Ultrasound of the abdominal area – To detect inflammation of the pancreas and to search for gallstones.
- CT scan (computed tomography) – To determine the degree of inflammation.
- Stool tests – To reveal the levels of fat.
Treatments for Inflammation of the Pancreas
There are several main treatments for pancreatitis, including the following:
Fasting and Mild Food
Pancreatitis is first treated with supervised fasting. While in the hospital, the patient will not eat for a day or two. This allows the organ to rest, providing it with the opportunity to recover and for the inflammation to come under control.
Soon following a fast, the patient will be able to consume clear liquids and to eat bland food. Once the enzyme levels start to come back to normal, the patient will be able to go back to their normal diet.
Pain medications are part of the treatment regimen to help quell pain caused by pancreatitis. Intravenous fluids can also help increase the body’s ability to repair the pancreas with needed fluids and energy, and to decrease the possibility of dehydration.
While these efforts help to get the pancreas’ condition under control, they do not solve the underlying problem. Procedures that can treat the condition include surgery to remove bile duct obstructions, including gallstones. The duct may also be opened or widened.
Gastroenterologists in Austin, Texas
Make a positive change to your diet to help prevent or treat pancreatitis. Patients can also take pancreatic enzyme supplements that assist the body with breaking down nutrients. Your healthcare professional may refer you to a nutritionist to help you get your food intake on track.
If you’re experiencing symptoms related to pancreatitis or other digestive issues, Austin Gastroenterology is here to help. Call us for more information or to request an appointment at one of our many convenient locations across the Austin area: North Offices at (512) 244-2273, Central Offices at (512) 454-4588, or South Offices at (512) 448-4588.
You can also fill out our appointment request form online now. We look forward to seeing you and partnering with you for a lifetime of health and wellness.