What is Pancreatitis?

Pancreatitis is inflammation of the pancreas that occurs when pancreatic enzyme secretions build up and begin to digest the organ itself. It can occur as acute, painful attacks lasting a matter of days, or it may be a chronic, condition that progresses over a period of years.

Approximately 87,000 people are treated for pancreatitis each year in the U.S., with the disease affecting roughly twice as many males as females. Occurring very rarely in children, pancreatitis primarily affects adults.

Symptoms of Pancreatitis

Symptoms of acute pancreatitis include:

  • Severe, steady pain in the upper-middle part of the abdomen, often radiating into the back
  • Jaundice
  • Low-grade fever

More pancreatitis symptoms »

Causes of Pancreatitis

In more than half of patients, chronic pancreatitis is caused by long-term abuse of alcohol, which leads to damage and scarring of the pancreas. Other people may develop chronic pancreatitis as a result of hereditary causes and other causes, including:

  • Gallstones
  • Structural problems of the pancreatic and bile ducts
  • Some medications like estrogen supplements and some diuretics
  • Severe viral or bacterial infection

More causes of pancreatitis »

Treatment for Pancreatitis

Treatment for acute pancreatitis may include nutritional support with feeding tubes or intravenous (IV) nutrition, antibiotics, and pain medications. Surgery is sometimes needed to treat complications. More about pancreatitis treatments »

Diet for Chronic Pancreatitis

Patients should avoid refined sugar, simple carbohydrates, alcohol, and fried/greasy/high fat foods. Instead, aim to eat fruits, vegetables, whole grains, low fat dairy, and other lean protein sources. A high protein, moderate fat diet is best in general. More about diet for pancreatitis and lifestyle modifications »

The Pancreas Center provides comprehensive, expert care for patients with pancreatitis and other diseases of the pancreas. If you are experiencing symptoms and would like to consult with one of our physicians, please call 212.305.9467.

The pancreatitis section of this web site was made possible by a generous gift from the The Pancreatic Endowment for Achieving Control and Education (P.E.A.C.E) Fund. This special fund was created by Alyson Peluso, a patient at the Pancreas Center, to alleviate the financial burden for other patients who are hospitalized for long-term treatment of pancreatic cancer and related diseases. To give to the PEACE fund, please call 212.305.9467.