Pancreatitis

Pancreatitis is inflammation of the pancreas, an organ in your abdomen that makes enzymes that help you digest food and insulin a hormone that helps control the way your body processes sugar (glucose). Pancreatitis can cause sudden, severe abdominal pain and it's usually caused by gallstones or alcoholism.

Most people recover fully from pancreatitis.

Pancreatitis: What You Need to Know

Teamwork

Pancreatitis is best managed by a group of specialists that include gastroenterologists, surgeons and dieticians. Our physicians and other support staff work together as a team, providing expert care.

Technology

Our team offers specialized services to diagnose and treat pancreatitis, including endoscopic ultrasound and ERCP (endoscopic retrograde cholangiopancreatography). Learn more about diagnosis and treatment for pancreatitis.

Experienced, Trusted Expertise

We are the largest and most comprehensive digestive disease specialty group in Vermont and northeastern New York with two subspecialists board certified in endoscopic ultrasound.

What is Pancreatitis?

There are two types of pancreatitis: acute, which appears suddenly and lasts for days, and chronic, which happens repeatedly over years.

Pancreatitis happens when the digestive enzymes your pancreas makes become activated while they are still inside the pancreas. Normally, pancreatic enzymes don't activate until they move into the small intestine.

Your pancreas can become inflamed and if you have repeated attacks of acute pancreatitis, you'll end up with chronic pancreatitis. If the damage to your pancreas causes scar tissue to form, you may have other digestion problems or develop diabetes.

Pain in your upper abdomen can be either acute or chronic pancreatitis. Other pancreatitis symptoms include:

  • Abdominal pain that stretches all the way to your back or feels worse after you eat
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • An abdomen that's tender to being touched
  • Indigestion
  • Losing weight without trying
  • Oily, smelly stools (called steatorrhea)

Pancreatitis has many causes, including:

  • Gallstones
  • ERCP (endoscopic retrograde cholangiopancreatography) when used to treat gallstones
  • Alcoholism – Fletcher Allen offers an alcohol and drug addiction program
  • Cigarette smoking – Fletcher Allen offers a quit smoking program
  • Cystic fibrosis
  • Family history of pancreatitis
  • High blood levels of:
    • Calcium (hypercalcemia)
    • Parathyroid hormone (hyperparathyroidism)
    • Triglycerides (hypertriglyceridemia)
  • Infection
  • Abdominal injury or surgery
  • Pancreatic cancer
  • Certain medications

Diagnosis and Treatment: Pancreatitis

Learn more about pancreatitis diagnosis and treatment.

Find a Fletcher Allen physician or call 802-847-8865.