General Practice 2022

Acute pancreatitis: what é, symptoms, causes and treatment

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Acute pancreatitis: what é, symptoms, causes and treatment
Acute pancreatitis: what é, symptoms, causes and treatment

Acute pancreatitis is inflammation of the pancreas that occurs mainly due to excessive consumption of alcoholic beverages or the presence of gallstones, causing severe abdominal pain that comes on suddenly and is extremely disabling.

People with acute pancreatitis usually recover easily when the cause of the disease is identified, so surgery to remove stones from the gallbladder, for example, may be necessary.

Acute pancreatitis is curable and its treatment should be started in the hospital with drugs directly into the vein to relieve symptoms.

Main symptoms

The main ones of acute pancreatitis include:

  • Intense pain in upper belly, radiating to back;
  • Abdominal swelling;
  • Excessive sweating;
  • Increased heart rate;
  • Nausea and vomiting;
  • Loss of appetite;
  • Fever;
  • Diarrhea.

These symptoms may only last for a few hours, but usually last for about 1 week. During this period, it is recommended to undergo medical treatment to relieve symptoms, as well as identify the cause of pancreatitis, as some type of specific treatment may be necessary.

How to confirm the diagnosis

The diagnosis of pancreatitis can usually be made solely on the basis of each person's symptoms and medical history. However, the doctor also requests some tests, mainly blood tests to evaluate the levels of pancreatic enzymes in the blood, such as lipase, which tends to be very high in cases of pancreatitis.Understand more about the lipase test and the results.

In addition, other tests, such as computed tomography, magnetic resonance imaging or abdominal ultrasound, may also be ordered to try to identify any changes that may be the cause of pancreatitis and that need more specific treatment.

Possible causes of pancreatitis

Although most cases of acute pancreatitis are due to excessive alcohol consumption or the presence of gallstones, other causes exist:

  • Side effect of some medication;
  • Viral infections such as mumps or measles;
  • Autoimmune diseases.

Although they are rarer, these causes should also be investigated, especially if pancreatitis is not related to the more common causes.

How the treatment is done

Treatment for acute pancreatitis should be guided by a gastroenterologist, but generally it consists of hospitalizing the person and leaving him/her fasting, being hydrated only with saline solution in the vein.This procedure can relieve pain in about 80% of cases, as it reduces the activity of the pancreas, which is widely used in digestion.

In addition, the doctor may also prescribe the use of painkillers, Paracetamol or Tramadol, as well as antibiotics, to relieve symptoms and prevent new infections. These medicines can be kept even when the person is discharged and returns home.

In some cases, surgery may still be necessary to remove stones from the gallbladder or to remove the affected part of the pancreas. In these cases, the patient may develop diabetes, as the pancreas is responsible for producing insulin, and therefore may need to have insulin injections for the rest of his life. Learn more about treatment for acute pancreatitis and when surgery is indicated.

Diet for acute pancreatitis

The diet for acute pancreatitis consists of fasting for the first few days of hospital stay and until symptoms are controlled with medical treatment.In the most severe cases, the person receives feeding through a tube. Afterwards, feeding should be started gradually, giving preference to:

  • Foods rich in carbohydrates and lean proteins;
  • Fruits and vegetables,
  • Water, teas or coconut water.

It is very important that the person does not consume very fatty foods, such as fried foods, cakes or snacks, as these foods need the enzymes produced by the pancreas to be properly digested and, at this stage, the pancreas must rest to recover. Understand better how the diet for pancreatitis should be.

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