MSD Manual

Please confirm that you are not located inside the Russian Federation

Loading

Overview of Pancreatitis

By

Michael Bartel

, MD, Fox Chase Cancer Center, Temple University

Last full review/revision Sep 2020| Content last modified Sep 2020
Click here for the Professional Version
NOTE: This is the Consumer Version. DOCTORS: Click here for the Professional Version
Click here for the Professional Version
Topic Resources

Pancreatitis is inflammation of the pancreas.

The pancreas is a leaf-shaped organ about 5 inches (about 13 centimeters) long. It is surrounded by the lower edge of the stomach and the first portion of the small intestine (duodenum).

Locating the Pancreas

Locating the Pancreas

The pancreas has three major functions:

  • To secrete fluid containing digestive enzymes into the duodenum

  • To secrete the hormones insulin and glucagon, which help regulate sugar levels in the bloodstream

  • To secrete into the duodenum the large quantities of sodium bicarbonate (the chemical in baking soda) needed to neutralize the acid coming from the stomach

Inflammation of the pancreas can be caused by gallstones, alcohol, various drugs, some viral infections, and other less common causes.

Pancreatitis usually develops quickly and subsides within a few days but can last for a few weeks. This is called acute pancreatitis. In some cases, however, inflammation persists and gradually destroys pancreatic function. This is called chronic pancreatitis.

Pancreatitis most commonly causes severe pain in the upper abdomen that is often accompanied by nausea and vomiting. Pancreatitis may cause permanent damage to the pancreas.

People who have acute pancreatitis typically need to be hospitalized for a period of time and may require a lot of fluids given by vein (intravenously) until they feel better and are pain free.

People who have chronic pancreatitis sometimes need to take capsules of pancreatic enzyme extracts with meals to help relieve pain and improve digestion.

NOTE: This is the Consumer Version. DOCTORS: Click here for the Professional Version
Click here for the Professional Version
Others also read

Also of Interest

Videos

View All
The Stomach
Video
The Stomach
3D Models
View All
Small Intestine: Full-Thickness Section
3D Model
Small Intestine: Full-Thickness Section

SOCIAL MEDIA

TOP