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What Is Pancreatitis?

Pancreatitis is inflammation of the pancreas (an organ behind the stomach that makes enzymes for digestion and hormones for processing glucose). The inflammation occurs when another condition causes the digestive enzymes in the pancreas not to work correctly, which irritates the pancreas.

Conditions that may cause pancreatitis include:

  • Alcoholism
  • Gallstones
  • Medication side effect
  • Abdominal surgery
  • Hypertriglyceridemia (high triglycerides)
  • Infection
  • Certain genetic conditions
  • Long-term cigarette smoking

Most cases of pancreatitis are acute (come on suddenly and heal after treatment). Treatment for acute pancreatitis is generally successful. Only a small percentage of patients experience life-threatening complications. The most common complication is the formation of a pseudocyst in your pancreas, which can cause infection or internal bleeding if broken.

In some cases, pancreatitis can be chronic (affect you for years). Chronic pancreatitis permanently damages your pancreas without proper treatment and can cause diabetes, malnutrition or pancreatic cancer.


The most common symptoms of pancreatitis are:

  • Abdominal pain – Discomfort in the upper abdomen that may spread to your back and get worse after you eat
  • Fever – An abnormally high body temperature
  • Rapid pulse – An abnormally fast heartbeat
  • Nausea – A feeling of sickness in your stomach that may lead to vomiting

Chronic pancreatitis may also lead to unintentional weight-loss.

Treatment Options

Most cases of pancreatitis require a hospital stay with the following treatment:

  • IV fluids – Your care team will insert a thin tube into a vein in your arm. This tube will deliver fluids to your body to prevent dehydration.
  • Pain medicine – You will receive medicine to control any pain and keep you comfortable.

Depending on the cause of your pancreatitis, you may require additional treatments such as lifestyle changes and surgery. For example, your doctor may recommend gallbladder surgery for pancreatitis caused by gallstones.

Chronic pancreatitis also requires additional medical or surgical treatment to prevent or manage complications.

Ready for an Appointment?

If you're experiencing signs or symptoms of pancreatitis, schedule an appointment or call 800-TEMPLE-MED (800-836-7536) today.

Learn more about our doctors and care team who diagnose and treat pancreatitis.