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.
Acute vs. Chronic Pancreatitis
Acute pancreatitis refers to pancreatitis that develops suddenly, most often as a result of gallstones or alcohol ingestion. Reaction to certain medications, trauma, and infectious causes can also lead to acute pancreatitis. Acute pancreatitis can be life threatening, but most patients recover completely.
Chronic pancreatitis refers to ongoing disease in which the pancreas continues to sustain damage and lose function over time. The majority of cases of chronic pancreatitis result from ongoing alcohol abuse, but some cases are hereditary or due to diseases such as cystic fibrosis.
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.