Acute pancreatitis is an inflammation of the pancreas and and the real cause of it is still unknown. It is believed that inflammation is caused by pancreatic juices, which contain strong enzymes, penetrating into parts of the pancreas and irritating them.
In the UK, about half of patients with acute pancreatitis already suffer from gallstones. A gallstone can clog the flow of pancreatic juices into the intestine. An excessive alcohol consumption, hyperparathyroidism or abdominal injury can also contribute to the development of acute pancreatitis. In very rare cases, acute pancreatitis is a complication of mumps.
The main symptom of acute pancreatitis is extremely severe pain in the upper abdominal cavity. Pain occurs after 12 to 24 hours after abundant meals or a large amount of alcohol. The pain spreads to the back and chest, and after a few hours they reach a climax with vomiting and severe nausea. In severe cases, the patient looks really bad and there are also symptoms of shock, so he/she should be taken to the hospital immediately.
The main danger to acute pancreatitis comes from a shock, as it can cause death; another danger comes from the possibility of development of chronic pancreatitis. However, most patients are fully recovered.
If your doctor suspects that you have acute pancreatitis or some other serious abdominal discomfort, he will refer you to the hospital. Diagnosis is made with x-ray stomach and blood tests.
Immediate treatment consists in administering fluid and nutrients to intravenous infusion, and analgesics to relieve the pain. During recovery, the patient will gradually start eating and drinking again, but should never drink alcohol again. A few weeks later, tests are performed in order to determine the presence of gallstones. If a patient has them, an operating procedure is recommended.