Chronic Pancreatitis

Almost everyone experiences abdominal pain on occasion, but when pain keeps recurring and increases in severity, our Chronic Pancreatitis and Autologous Islet Cell Transplant Program can help you determine the cause of your pain and direct you to the right treatment.

Pancreatitis is an inflammation of the pancreas that can be caused by many conditions, including:

  • Excessive alcohol consumption
  • Gallstones
  • Abdominal surgery
  • Certain medications

With chronic pancreatitis, the inflammation gets worse over time, causing permanent and disrupting the function of the organ, which is to secrete enzymes that aid digestion and hormones to regulate sugar metabolism.

Symptoms of Chronic Pancreatitis

Pancreatitis is an inflammation of the pancreas which can be caused by excessive alcohol consumption, gallstones, abdominal surgery, certain medications and other conditions. In a proportion of patients with chronic pancreatitis no obvious cause will be found, indeed the source of the pain. The pancreas gland produces enzymes and hormones that break down and digest food. It also secretes insulin that regulates the body’s glucose or sugar levels. With chronic pancreatitis, the inflammation gets worse over time, causing permanent and disrupting the function of the organ.

Most people with chronic pancreatitis experience upper abdominal pain. The pain may spread to the back, feel worse when eating or drinking, and as time goes on it becomes constant and disabling.

Other symptoms of chronic pancreatitis include the following:

  • nausea
  • vomiting
  • weight loss
  • diarrhea
  • oily stools

People with chronic pancreatitis often lose weight, even when their appetite and eating habits are normal. The weight loss occurs because the body does not secrete enough pancreatic enzymes to digest food, so nutrients are not absorbed normally. Poor digestion leads to malnutrition due to excretion of fat in the stool.

Dealing with Pain

Constant, debilitating pain that can’t be adequately controlled with medications is the hallmark of chronic pancreatitis. The condition is frustrating to both the person suffering and the provider treating it. In some circumstances the pain of chronic pancreatitis may be difficult to diagnose or mislabeled especially if there are other findings during a clinical evaluation.

At MedStar Georgetown Transplant Institute, our team of experts can evaluate and determine the best course to relieve the pain of chronic pancreatitis, including the innovative option of auto islet cell transplant.


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