Your pancreas is in your upper abdomen. It lies behind your stomach and intestines. It produces enzymes to help your body digest food and hormones such as insulin to help regulate your body’s blood sugar level.

What is pancreatitis?

Enzymes that normally become active after they empty from your pancreas to your small intestine, instead become active within your pancreas.

Symptoms can include:

  • Burning or radiating pain in your abdomen
  • Nausea and/or vomiting
  • Abdominal swelling and tenderness

In severe cases, patients may experience low blood pressure, jaundice and a fever. Symptoms can be acute (sudden over a short period of time) or chronic (long term).

The most common causes of pancreatitis are gall stones or the consumption of alcohol. Some medications also cause this condition. Some forms of the disease may be hereditary (passed to you from a family member).

If your GP suspects you have pancreatitis you will be admitted to hospital. A final diagnosis may be confirmed after a blood test. You may also need a CT scan or MRI scan. In gallbladder-related cases an ERCP may be recommended.

How is pancreatitis treated?

Treatment for pancreatitis can include strong pain killers, intravenous fluids and oxygen. You may not be able to eat for a few days as this would place more strain on your inflamed pancreas. If your gallbladder is causing your pancreatitis, an ERCP to remove any gall stones or removal of your gallbladder may be recommended.