Pancreatitis is inflammation of the pancreas, an organ in your abdomen that makes enzymes that help you digest food and insulin a hormone that helps control the way your body processes sugar (glucose). Pancreatitis can cause sudden, severe abdominal pain and it's usually caused by gallstones or alcoholism.
Most people recover fully from pancreatitis.
Pancreatitis: What You Need to Know
Pancreatitis is best managed by a group of specialists that include gastroenterologists, surgeons and dieticians. Our physicians and other support staff work together as a team, providing expert care.
The University of Vermont Medical Center offers specialized services to diagnose and treat pancreatitis, including endoscopic ultrasound and ERCP (endoscopic retrograde cholangiopancreatography). Learn more about diagnosis and treatment for pancreatitis.
Experienced, Trusted Expertise
We are the largest and most comprehensive digestive disease specialty group in Vermont and northeastern New York with two subspecialists board certified in endoscopic ultrasound.
What is Pancreatitis?
There are two types of pancreatitis: acute, which appears suddenly and lasts for days, and chronic, which happens repeatedly over years.
Pancreatitis happens when the digestive enzymes your pancreas makes become activated while they are still inside the pancreas. Normally, pancreatic enzymes don't activate until they move into the small intestine.
Your pancreas can become inflamed and if you have repeated attacks of acute pancreatitis, you'll end up with chronic pancreatitis. If the damage to your pancreas causes scar tissue to form, you may have other digestion problems or develop diabetes.
Pain in your upper abdomen can be either acute or chronic pancreatitis. Other pancreatitis symptoms include:
- Abdominal pain that stretches all the way to your back or feels worse after you eat
- An abdomen that's tender to being touched
- Losing weight without trying
- Oily, smelly stools (called steatorrhea)
Pancreatitis has many causes, including:
- ERCP (endoscopic retrograde cholangiopancreatography) when used to treat gallstones
- Alcoholism - The UVM Medical Center offers an alcohol and drug addiction program
- Cigarette smoking - The UVM Medical Center offers a quit smoking program
- Cystic fibrosis
- Family history of pancreatitis
- High blood levels of:
- Calcium (hypercalcemia)
- Parathyroid hormone (hyperparathyroidism)
- Triglycerides (hypertriglyceridemia)
- Abdominal injury or surgery
- Pancreatic cancer
- Certain medications
Diagnosis and Treatment: Pancreatitis
Learn more about pancreatitis diagnosis and treatment.
Find a doctor or specialist at the UVM Medical Center or call 802-847-8865.