What are the pancreas and where is it located in the body?
The pancreas is a long and flat gland that is tucked behind the stomach in the upper abdomen. It is about 6 inches long and it’s head is situated on the right side of the abdomen connecting the small intestine. The main function of the pancreas gland is to produce enzymes that help in the digestion of food. It also produces certain hormones to form insulin cells that process sugar and glucose in the body. Improper functioning of the pancreas can lead to various diseases as the body gets all its nutrients from food processed by the digestive system. Once this process is interrupted we are prone to many kinds of diseases.
Pancreas problem and adverse effects
A pancreas problem occurs when the digestive enzymes are produced by the pancreas but are not able to release them into the body. These enzymes accumulate in the pancreas itself and cause irritation in the cells. This further leads to inflammation of the pancreas. Adverse effects of pancreatitis or the pancreas problem can lead to two type 1 and type 2 diabetes, cystic fibrosis, pancreatic cancer, pancreatic pseudocyst, islet cell tumor, enlarged pancreas, etc. the type 1 and type 2 diabetes are caused due to the disruption in production of insulin cells by the pancreas. Cystic fibrosis is a genetic disorder that affects multiple organs in the body. The lungs and pancreas are majorly affected. The pancreas has many cells that might develop into a tumor soon. The most common area of tumor cells arises in the pancreatic duct.
Pancreas issues symptoms
1. Severe abdominal pain
Abdomen pain is first acute and when not very serious, but can turn to be severe and unbearable when pancreatitis gets critical. It is usually the upper abdomen that pains regarding pancreas problems. An immediate remedy is to place a heating pad in the area of pain for about 15 to 20 minutes. You can also try lying on one side and not flat so that the digestion is easier.
2. Unexplained weight loss
Those who suffer from chronic pancreatitis tend to lose weight rapidly. Even though your eating habits are normal and healthy, your body keeps losing weight. This is because the body is not able to produce enough pancreatic enzymes to digest the food. Once the food is not digested, there is no nutrition to the body and it leads to a lack of nutrition or unexplained weight loss.
3. Rapid pulse
Experts say that there is an association between pancreatic diseases and cardiovascular diseases. Ischemic heart disease and hypertension can risk the increase of pancreas issues in an individual. Hence patients with pancreas problems seem to have an increase in heartbeat.
4. Swollen and tender abdomen
Some may experience a swollen and tender abdomen if they have chronic pancreatitis or any other pancreas problems. The symptoms vary from person to person. In this case, there can be bloating of the abdomen. The swelling is because the intestinal contents do not move due to digestive disorders. There is a feeling of tenderness when you touch the abdomen. Sometimes it can also lead to peripancreatic fluid collection leading to pseudocyst.
Sudden inflammation of the pancreas can sometimes cause fever.
6. Nausea and Vomiting
Nausea and vomiting are common symptoms of pancreas problems as the major reason is indigestion and lack of production of enzymes required for digestion by the pancreas.
7. Oily and smelly stools
Many pancreatitis patients experience diarrhea and constipation frequently. This leads to loose stools. It can sometimes be oily or foul-smelling. This happens due to insufficient digestive enzymes in the intestines.
Causes of pancreas problems
- Medications that can irritate the pancreas
- High triglyceride levels in the blood
- Intestinal infections
- Metabolic disorders like diabetes
- Genetics disorders like cystic fibrosis
- Injury in the abdomen
- High calcium levels in the blood can also cause pancreas problems
- People who are obese are also prone to pancreatic diseases
- Genetics also plays an important role in pancreatic diseases. Those with a family history of pancreatitis have higher risks to the disease.
Whom should you consult for the pancreas problem?
If you have a family doctor or a usual doctor whom you visit often, consult him or her first to reveal what you're going through. Explain your symptoms and illness to the doctor and he or she will then direct you to a gastroenterologist. A gastroenterologist is one who specializess in treating pancreas problems. For those who don’t have a specific family doctor and want to meet a specialist immediately, look for Gastroenterologists near me to find a specialist close by. You can fix an appointment over the phone before consulting the doctor. You can also opt for online doctor consultation if you want to consult a specific doctor who is far off from your home.
What are the major treatments for pancreas problem?
The pancreas problems treatment is different for different stages of the infection. In mild cases, where the complications are less, the doctors may give you a bowel rest where your intestines are put to rest for a few days and the person will not take food or drink by mouth for a few days. Fluids are usually provided intravenously. For serious cases, doctors use Endoscopic Cholangiopancreatography (ERCP) which is a combination of upper gastrointestinal endoscopy and x rays to treat the blockage in the pancreatic duct. The blockage in the duct otherwise known as gallstones is removed using ERCP.
The pancreas problem starts small but when left unnoticed leads to serious diseases. Other complications of pancreatic diseases are kidney failure, breathing problems, malnutrition, and diabetes. It comes and goes quickly for a few people, but becomes a chronic problem for many. It is better to avoid risk factors like smoking and drinking for those who have a family history of pancreatitis. Try having a healthy diet along with yoga and meditation to develop healthy intestines. A balanced diet and regular exercise can help you avoid such problems.
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