Acute or Chronic Pancreatitis


Acute pancreatitis is a condition involving the development of sudden onset of inflammation of the pancreas. The inflammation is caused most commonly by excessive alcohol usage or gallstones. Other causes include: Medications, elevated calcium, or elevated lipid levels in the blood. In general, acute pancreatitis is a mild disease that is usually associated with a rapid recovery within a few days of onset of the illness. During an attack of acute pancreatitis, the pancreatic duct often gets disrupted leading to leakage of pancreatic juices. These pancreatic juices digest the pancreas and surround tissues leading to necrotic tissue. This necrotic tissue can become infected, leading to sever sepsis.

In about 15-20% of patients with acute pancreatitis, severe damage to the pancreas can occur that may be life-threatening illness. Many of the complications seen in severe acute pancreatitis are associated with the amount of pancreatic necrosis, or the amount of dead pancreatic tissue present. Necrosis is due to poor blood flow. Severe acute pancreatitis is a serious, life-threatening disease that requires expert medical evaluation and treatment.

When acute pancreatitis continues to recur, it lead to a condition known as chronic pancreatitis. Chronic pancreatitis is often associated with widespread scarring and destruction of pancreatic tissue. This condition mostly frequently develops from inflammatory damage of the pancreas over many years, due to the effects of alcohol and smoking. However, in some patients, this condition may develop without any apparent cause. Because patients with chronic pancreatitis are at risk for developing significant health issues such as diabetes and cancer, expert medical evaluation and treatment are essential.


Risk Factors for Pancreatitis

Several factors are known to increase the risk for pancreatitis, including:

  • Alcohol use
  • Female gender, if due to gallstones
  • Being of African American descent
  • Elevated triglyceride levels


Symptoms of Acute and Chronic Pancreatitis

Symptoms vary according to the type of pancreatitis an individual is experiencing. Some of the most common symptoms include the following:

  • Acute Pancreatitis can result in symptoms such as: Severe abdominal pain, swollen/distended abdomen, back pain, fever, nausea/vomiting and tachycardia.
  • Severe Acute Pancreatitis (Pancreatic Necrosis) can result in symptoms such as: Persistent fever, abdominal pain, weight loss, nausea/vomiting, infection in the blood stream and respiratory failure.
  • Chronic Pancreatitis can result in symptoms such as: Recurrent bouts of abdominal or back pain, weight loss, diabetes, diarrhea and foul-smelling stools that float.


If you’re experiencing any of these symptoms, it’s important to seek proper evaluation and treatment from a healthcare expert experienced in the diagnosis and treatment​ of gastrointestinal and pancreatic issues.

Need to contact us?

Hoag Digestive Health Institute

Contact Us