Pancreas, a long, flat gland located right behind your stomach in the upper abdominal area, produces enzymes and hormones to promote proper digestion of food, and it also regulates the way your body processes glucose. It can become inflamed due to many different reasons and cause serious abdominal pain with nausea and vomiting. The inflammation in the pancreas is called pancreatitis, which can be acute one that appears suddenly, or chronic one that occurs over many years. Mild pancreatitis usually lasts for several days but may not require any treatment. However, severe cases of pancreatitis require immediate medical attention.
Is Pancreatitis Fatal?
Yes, severe acute pancreatitis can lead to serious complications and may lead to death. Immediate medical attention is necessary or else you may develop complications such as pancreatic cysts, leaks of pancreatic fluid into the abdomen, and abscesses. Shock is also a possible complication associated with acute pancreatitis that can cause death. In severe cases of acute pancreatitis, parts of the pancreas die, making pancreatic fluid to enter the abdominal cavity, leading to decreased blood volume. This in turn causes your blood pressure to drop quickly, which results in shock.
Chronic Pancreatitis Is Not Fatal
The answer to "is pancreatitis fatal" is different for chronic pancreatitis. It develops over a number of years in people with a history of recurrent episodes of acute pancreatitis. However, there will still be severe complications. Your pancreas will lose the ability to secrete the enzymes and hormones required for the digestion of food. This leads to a condition called pancreatic insufficiency, which causes issues such as sudden or gradual weight loss, diarrhea, or foul-smelling stools. People with chronic pancreatitis may also develop pancreatic calcification or diabetes.
Symptoms of Acute Pancreatitis
Failing to get immediate medical attention may lead to serious complications in people having acute pancreatitis. The most common symptoms of acute pancreatitis are pain radiating to your back, upper abdominal pain that gets worse after eating, vomiting, nausea, and abdominal tenderness. Do not ignore these symptoms and be sure to schedule an appointment with your doctor for further evaluation.
Treatments for Acute Pancreatitis
Is pancreatitis fatal if left untreated? The answer is definitely yes. Although you usually require no treatment for mild cases of pancreatitis, severe cases need immediate treatments. If you have symptoms of pancreatitis, you should avoid food and drink, and seek medical assistance immediately. Your doctor may advise you to stay in the hospital and receive intravenous fluids with pain relievers. You may also require nutritional supplements depending on how long the condition lasts.
Sometimes, you may develop pancreatitis due to gallstones. In this case, your doctor may decide to remove the gallbladder. You will have to wait for your pancreatitis symptoms to improve first before undergoing the surgery. However, your doctor may decide to perform an endoscopic retrograde cholangiopancreatography in case there is a blockage of the pancreatic duct. The procedure involves inserting a flexible tube which has a miniature camera and a light at its end through your mouth to find and remove blockage. Sometimes, the doctor widens the duct to make it easier for the stone to pass by itself.
Pancreatitis may also result in internal bleeding or lead to the development of a cyst. In this case, you will require traditional surgery to stop bleeding or drain your cyst.
How to Prevent Acute Pancreatitis
Is pancreatitis fatal? Yes, acute pancreatitis can be. That is why it is important to make necessary lifestyle changes to prevent acute pancreatitis. Gallstones and alcohol abuse are the two major risk factors for pancreatitis.
1. Control Alcohol Consumption
It is important to limit the intake of alcohol to lower your risk of developing acute pancreatitis. Too much alcohol can damage your pancreas and lead to complications including liver cancer. Ideally, men should not have more than 21 standard drinks a week, whereas women should limit it to 14 standard drinks a week. A small glass of wine is equal to a standard drink of alcohol.
2. Stick to a Low-Fat Diet
Having too much fat in your diet increases your risk of developing gallstones. Excessive fat in your diet will increase your bad cholesterol that accumulates in the bile and produces gallstones. Stick to a low-fat diet, and include fresh fruits and veggies in your diet with whole grains. Avoid full-fat dairy products as well as fried food. Do not eat too much of food high in simple sugars because it can lead to high triglyceride levels in your blood that puts you at a risk of developing pancreatitis.
3. Quit Smoking
Studies show that you are more likely to develop acute pancreatitis if you smoke cigarettes. Smoking is bad for your overall health and increases the risk of inflammation.
4. Maintain an Active Lifestyle
Being overweight increases your risk of developing gallstones which is a leading cause of pancreatitis, so you need to maintain an active lifestyle and take steps to lose excess weight. Losing weight and maintaining a healthy body weight will help keep you healthy and protect you from many other serious complications, such as diabetes and heart disease.
5. Avoid Crash Diets
Losing excess weight will definitely help, but you should lose it gradually. Trying crash diets to lose weight quickly will lead to excessive productive of cholesterol, which will again increase your risk of developing gallstones and pancreatitis eventually.