The pancreas is a six-inch long organ below the stomach. It makes enzymes and hormones that aid in digestion and balance the body’s sugar content. Enzymes break down the food we eat as it passes into the intestines. The pancreatic hormones, primarily insulin and glucagon, regulate sugar metabolism.
Chronic pancreatitis occurs when the organ’s digestive enzymes attack and destroy the pancreas and nearby tissues, resulting in decreased enzyme and hormone release, scarring, and pain.
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Chronic pancreatitis results from prolonged injury to the pancreas, usually caused by prolonged alcohol abuse. Other causes include:
- Heredity cystic fibrosis
Obstruction of the passageway from the pancreas to the intestines due to:
- Pseudocysts—build up of fluids and debris
- Congenital conditions such as pancreas divisum
- Tropical pancreatitis
- Hypercalcemia—high blood levels of calcium
- Hyperlipidemia or hypertriglyceridemia—high levels of blood fats
- Autoimmune diseases like lupus
Last reviewedAugust 2013by Lawrence Frisch, MD, MPH; Michael Woods, MD
Please be aware that this information is provided to supplement the care provided by your physician. It is neither intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice. CALL YOUR HEALTHCARE PROVIDER IMMEDIATELY IF YOU THINK YOU MAY HAVE A MEDICAL EMERGENCY. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider prior to starting any new treatment or with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.