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General Practice 2023

Pâncreas: what é, what it is for and main functionsções

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Pâncreas: what é, what it is for and main functionsções
Pâncreas: what é, what it is for and main functionsções

The pancreas is a leaf-shaped gland about 15 to 25 cm long, located in the back of the abdomen, behind the stomach, between the upper part of the intestine and the spleen. This organ is made up of three main regions: the head, which is on the right side of the abdomen and is connected to the duodenum; the body and tail, which is the narrow end of the pancreas and extends to the left side of the body.

The pancreas is responsible for producing some hormones such as insulin, glucagon and somatostatin, which control blood glucose levels, and important enzymes such as amylase, lipase and trypsin, which participate in the digestive process.

When the pancreas does not function properly, diseases such as diabetes, digestive problems, inflammation or cancer can arise. Some symptoms that may indicate problems with the pancreas include pain in the abdomen, frequent nausea and vomiting.


Main functions

The main functions of the pancreas are related to the type of pancreas cell and substance produced. The cells known as islets of Langerhans are responsible for the production of the hormones insulin and glucagon, while the cells of pancreatic acini produce enzymes that participate in the digestion of food.

Therefore, the main functions of the pancreas are:

1. Blood glucose control

The cells of the islets of Langerhans of the pancreas have an endocrine function, as they produce insulin and glucagon which are hormones responsible for controlling blood sugar levels and the body's metabolism.

In addition, these cells also produce the hormone somatostatin that controls the production of insulin and glucagon, also participating in the control of blood glucose.

2. Food digestion

The exocrine pancreas, made up of conglomerates of cells called acini, produces pancreatic juice that contains enzymes such as amylase that digests carbohydrates and sugars, trypsin that digests proteins, and lipase that digests fats.

These enzymes are released into the duodenum, which is the first part of the intestine, through a small tube in the pancreas called the pancreatic duct, allowing food to break down into smaller pieces so they can pass into the intestine, helping digestion of food and metabolism of nutrients.

Symptoms of pancreas problems

Symptoms that usually indicate that a problem with the pancreas may be developing or developing may include:

  • Abdominal pain, which may start suddenly and become progressively stronger and more continuous. It usually happens in the center of the abdomen, spreading to the top and bottom;
  • Increased abdominal pain when lying on your back;
  • Diarrhea with elimination of fat in the stool;
  • Nausea and vomiting after eating, usually associated with pain.

These symptoms help the endocrinologist to identify a disease in the pancreas such as diabetes, pancreatitis, cyst or pancreatic cancer. Check out the main diseases of the pancreas and how to treat them.

To confirm the diagnosis, the doctor must request imaging tests such as ultrasound, magnetic resonance imaging, tomography or cholangiography and blood tests such as blood count and levels of pancreatic enzymes, amylase and lipase. In this way, the doctor can indicate the treatment according to the specific disease in the pancreas.

Which doctor to consult

When there is suspicion of a problem with the pancreas, it is advisable to consult an endocrinologist. The doctor will evaluate the symptoms and order tests to confirm or rule out a problem with the pancreas.

How to prevent pancreas diseases

Some measures can help to avoid or reduce the risks of diseases in the pancreas such as:

  • Eat a he althy and varied diet;
  • Maintain a he althy weight;
  • Do not drink alcohol or drink in moderation;
  • No smoking;
  • Exercise regularly.

In addition, if you already have any changes in your pancreas such as pancreatitis or diabetes, for example, it is important to follow your doctor's instructions and eat a balanced diet.

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