Pancreatitis or inflammation of the pancreas is very painful and unfortunately all too commonly seen. The pancreas is located in the back of your abdomen. It helps with digestion of foods and produces hormones including insulin.
What causes pancreatitis? It turns out quite a few things. Drinking too much alcohol is a very frequent cause. So too are gallstones, which can irritate not only the gallbladder, but also the nearby pancreas. If a gallstone happens to migrate to the common bile duct, back up into the pancreas can occur. Of course, there are a variety of medications which occasionally can provoke a pancreatitis attack. Diuretics or water pills used mostly for high blood pressure seem to be among the chief offenders. Cancers, infection and injury round out some other causes. And there are still more including elevated calcium or triglycerides.
Pancreatitis presents with severe pain over your belly especially near the belly button. The pain may radiate to your back. Nausea, vomiting, weakness and at times fever may be seen. Depending on what other organs are affected, jaundice or yellow skin with dark urine can occur. In other words, you won’t be feeling like a million bucks. This is one of those times when you will just have to bite the bullet and go to the ER.
While in the ER, you will receive something for your pain and studies will be done. If it is your first episode of pancreatitis, generally you will have bought yourself a several day hospital stay. This is because there are some potential serious complications to pancreatitis and you will need to be monitored. What are the complications? Pseudo cysts can develop near the pancreas, infections including abscess or blood poisoning, and calcium, glucose, liver enzyme and blood count abnormalities -which is why you need to stay until things cool down a bit.
If you have had pancreatitis in the past, it can and does frequently recur. Avoid alcohol and fatty foods, but see your doctor if the symptoms come back. Generally, but by no means always, recurrent pancreatitis is not as serious.
Bottom line is if you have severe belly pain, go to the ER as soon as possible.