The secretion of the hormone called insulin and the regulation of the blood sugar within the physiological limits are the main functions of the pancreas. The pancreas is a large organ, located on the posterior side of the stomach. Diabetes mellitus develops if the pancreas does not produce sufficient insulin or tissues and organs cannot utilize insulin properly (insulin resistance).
There are several different disorders of the pancreas. Acute pancreatitis, chronic pancreatitis, hereditary pancreatitis, and pancreatic cancer are some of these disorders.
Acute pancreatitis is a sudden attack leading to the inflammation in the pancreas and usually causes severe pain in the upper region of the abdomen. Pain may be very severe and last for days. Nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, swelling, and fever are other symptoms. The most common factor leading to this disease is gallstones. Chronic alcohol consumption, genetic factors, trauma, drugs, infections, electrolyte imbalances, high lipid levels, and hormonal anomalies may also cause acute pancreatitis. The treatment is usually supportive. Most patients fully recover.
Chronic pancreatitis is a progressive disease and related to the destruction of the pancreatic tissues. It is more common in males and usually in people between the ages of 30 and 40 years. The symptoms are similar to acute pancreatitis. The most common symptoms are pain in the upper abdomen and diarrhea. While the disease becomes chronic, malnutrition and weight loss can be observed. If the pancreatic tissues are destructed, diabetes mellitus may emerge.
The treatment depends on the symptoms. The treatment is mostly based on pain relief and nutritional supplementation. Avoiding alcohol is very important.
In some patients, pancreatitis is related to the genetic anomalies of the pancreas and intestines. Acute and recurring attacks of pancreatitis in ages under 20 lead slowly to chronic pancreatitis in most patients. The most common disease leading to chronic pancreatitis is cystic fibrosis. The treatment is focused on the pain control and replacement of the pancreatic enzymes.
Pancreatic Cancer (Whipple)
This cancer type has a silent course and does not cause any symptoms in the early stages. The classical symptom is jaundice without pain. If it can be detected in the early stage, it can be cured with surgery. In advanced stages, the treatment is focused on the management of the symptoms and complications.