With severe, unbearable symptoms and a mortality rate of 30%, pancreatitis is seeing a rising trend globally. Read on to know more about the disease.

In India, the southern states alone report 76% more cases when compared to the global incidence. Lifestyle modification, including avoidance of alcohol intake, smoking, and managing cholesterol levels can help prevent the onset of the disease.

What is Pancreatitis?

Pancreatitis is the inflammation of the pancreas, which helps regulate blood sugar levels in the body. The cells of the pancreas undergo damaging processes resulting in severe pain and sometimes internal bleeding.

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It is more common after 50 years of age but is increasingly being seen among younger individuals.

It has the potential to become a chronic disease that is characterized by recurrent symptoms of worsening intensity. Certain lifestyle modifications can help prevent the progression of the disease.

It is an emergency condition that requires immediate medical treatment. If left unrelated, it can result in life-threatening complications and may even result in death.

What Causes Pancreatitis?

Pancreatitis can be triggered by several factors. 

-Gallstones (most common cause)

-Alcohol consumption, especially when accompanied by smoking

-Raised cholesterol and calcium levels in the blood

-Injuries and surgical procedures performed in the abdomen

-Medication such as paracetamol, estrogen compounds, certain drugs used for the treatment of gout, seizures, blood pressure, and a few antibiotics

-Infections such as mumps, CMV, and coxsackie virus

-Consumption of Cassava root (tapioca)

-Certain autoimmune conditions and hereditary causes

-Pancreatic cancer 

Very often, the cause remains unestablished.

What are the Symptoms of Pancreatitis?

A person having an acute episode of pancreatitis may experience the following symptoms.

Pain – Severe, continuous pain in the belly button that radiates to the back. The pain is briefly relieved by crouching and leaning forward

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Nausea and Vomiting

Dehydration – Dry mouth and tongue, and poor skin recoil when pinched.

Skin discoloration – Reddish-purple discoloration of the skin around the belly button, groin, or the sides of the abdomen.

High blood sugar levels

If left untreated, complications such as diabetes mellitus, internal bleeding, fluid accumulations, and fistulas may develop, and in some cases, this may result in death.

Diagnosis & Treatment

If you experience any of the symptoms mentioned above, visit the hospital immediately.

Blood tests will reveal elevated levels of pancreatic enzymes called ‘Amylase’ and ‘Lipase’. Liver function tests may also be deranged. A CT scan will be advised.

Hospital admission is usually advised to administer IV painkillers, fluids, and antibiotics. Sometimes, certain surgical procedures may also be required.

The underlying causes will be treated as appropriate. You will be advised to stop alcohol consumption and smoking. 


-Pancreatitis is an emergency condition requiring immediate medical care

-Severe abdominal pain is the hallmark of the disease

-Complications may result in death

-Lifestyle modifications can reduce the severity and progression of the disease

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-Mederos MA, Reber HA, Girgis MD. Acute pancreatitis: a review. Jama. 2021 Jan 26;325(4):382-90.

-Prakash VB. Changing demography of pancreatitis patients in India–A hospital-based study. Acta Sci Gastrointest Disord. 2019;2:08-11.


Junia Prakash

Dr Prakash is a physician-writer who addresses everyday health concerns in her articles. She uses her medical knowledge as well as her own personal experiences to demystify the complexities associated with health and lifestyle.


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