The pancreas is a gland located behind the stomach which secretes potent digestive juices or enzymes into the small intestine to aid the digestion of carbohydrates, proteins, and fat. It also releases the hormones insulin and glucagon into the bloodstream; which are involved in blood glucose metabolism, regulating how the body stores and uses food for energy.
Normally, digestive enzymes secreted by the pancreas do not become active until they reach the small intestine. But when the pancreas is inflamed (pancreatitis), the enzymes inside it attack and damage the tissues that produce them. Pancreatitis can be acute or chronic. Either form is serious and can lead to complications. In severe cases, bleeding, infection, and permanent tissue damage may occur. Both forms of pancreatitis occur more often in men than women.
What are the causes of Acute Pancreatitis?
Acute pancreatitis is inflammation of the pancreas that occurs suddenly and usually resolves in a few days with treatment. Acute pancreatitis can be a life-threatening illness with severe complications. The most common cause of acute pancreatitis is the presence of gallstones – small, pebble-like substances made of hardened bile – that cause inflammation in the pancreas as they pass through the common bile duct obstructing the pancreatic duct. Chronic, heavy alcohol use is also a common cause. Acute pancreatitis can occur within hours or as long as 2 days after consuming alcohol. Other causes of acute pancreatitis include abdominal trauma, medications, infections, tumors, and genetic abnormalities of the pancreas.