What Causes Pancreatitis in Women? Symptoms, Causes & Treatment

Nikhil Goswami

Pancreatitis is a condition that happens when an infection inflames the pancreas and causes it to swell up. Even though it is not a very common problem, you shouldn’t ignore it. Even though early-stage pancreatitis is nearly impossible to detect, the National Institute of Health has reported 62,210 cases in 2022. 3.2% of these cases are new cases that medical tests find during routine checks. With these numbers, it’s hard to believe that we have the disease under control. This doesn’t mean that the fight against the disease is over. When it comes to women and pancreatitis, it’s important to know what signs to look out for. Read on for a more in-depth look at what causes pancreatitis in women.

What Is Pancreatitis?

Simply put, pancreatitis is inflammation of the pancreas. The pancreas is a lengthy, plain organ that sits in the upper abdomen, behind the stomach. When the pancreas swells, the strong digestive enzymes it makes can hurt its cells. When the pancreas swells, it can send out cells that cause inflammation. This can hurt your kidneys and heart.

The pancreas makes enzymes that help break down food and hormones that help control how your body handles sugar. When these digestive enzymes start working before your pancreas releases them, it can cause inflammation of the pancreas, which can hurt the gland.

There are three different kinds of pancreatitis. Acute pancreatitis, which means it comes on quickly and lasts for a few days. Chronic pancreatitis, on the other hand, lasts longer and carries a high-risk factor. The third type is idiopathic pancreatitis, which can come on quickly or build up over time. If well handled, pancreatitis improves with treatment for mild cases, but complications from severe cases can be life-threatening.

Acute Pancreatitis

Acute pancreatitis is a sudden, short-term inflammation of the pancreas. It can be anything from a small annoyance to a deadly disease. Most people who have acute pancreatitis get better with the right care. Acute pancreatitis can cause painful, severe damage to tissues, infections, and cysts in serious conditions. Severe pancreatitis can also hurt the heart, lungs, and kidneys, all vital organs. Acute pancreatitis symptoms can also vary from one person to the next.

Most cases of acute pancreatitis get better in a few days. But it often needs painkillers, antibiotics, and hydration through an IV. Compared to chronic pancreatitis, acute pancreatitis hospitalizations are less frequent and easier to deal with.

Chronic Pancreatitis

Chronic pancreatitis is an inflammation that lasts for a long time. Most of the time, it occurs after a sudden attack of acute pancreatitis. Another major cause is heavy alcohol use for a long time. If you drink a lot, your pancreas may get hurt, but you might not have any symptoms for years. Then, all of a sudden, you might have chronic pancreatitis symptoms.

Chronic pancreatitis is harder to treat than acute pancreatitis. People with chronic pancreatitis may need to stay in the hospital for a long time to deal with their severe pain. Chronic pancreatitis patients will need to settle for a low-fat diet and may need to take enzyme supplements. Chronic pancreatitis can also hurt the pancreas in a lot of ways. Because of this, you might need surgery to remove some of the pancreas.

What Are the Symptoms of Pancreatitis?

Pain in the upper abdomen is the main symptom of acute and chronic pancreatitis. Pain could move to your back. This pain is felt differently by people with acute or chronic pancreatitis. People used to think that only drinking too much led to pancreatitis. However, only a small number of people with heavy alcohol will get pancreatitis. Signs and symptoms of pancreatitis may differ based on the type you experience.

Some signs and symptoms of acute pancreatitis are:

  • Pain in the upper abdomen
  • Nausea
  • Fever
  • A faster heartbeat
  • Swelling belly
  • High pulse rate

On the other hand, these are signs of chronic pancreatitis:

  • Severe abdominal pain radiating to the back. This discomfort could be incapacitating
  • Diarrhea and losing weight quickly
  • Upper abdominal pain
  • severe hunger

Some other symptoms may include throwing up and having stools that smell like oil. Keep an eye out for these signs. If you show them any, you should get a pancreatic function test.

What Are the Pancreatitis Causes and Risk Factors?

There are several causes of pancreatitis, but the main ones are gallstones and heavy alcohol use. The problem can come on quickly or go on for a long time, which can cause severe abdominal pain.

The problem can come on quickly or go on for a long time, which can cause severe abdominal pain.

Many conditions may or may not cause acute or chronic pancreatitis. There are some differences between regions, but bile stones or sludge and drinking too much alcohol are the main causes. The list of possible causes now includes new imaging tests, molecular biology, and genetics.

Causes of Acute Pancreatitis

Some of the causes of acute pancreatitis that may lead to life-threatening complications include:

  • Alcoholism
  • Some prescription drugs
  • Cystic fibrosis
  • Surgery
  • Malfunction of the digestive system
  • Obesity

It’s also important to know that in 15% of cases, the cause of acute pancreatitis is unknown.

Causes of Chronic Pancreatitis

Most women between 40 and 60 years are prone to pancreatitis. However, it doesn’t mean that all women in this age range will have chronic pancreatitis. Some of the most common things that lead to Chronic Pancreatitis are:

  • A severe case of acute pancreatitis that damages your pancreatic ducts
  • Pancreatic cancer causes a clog of the primary pancreatic duct
  • Hereditary idiopathic pancreatitis
  • Excessive smoking
  • Kidney failure
  • Cystic fibrosis

Can Pancreatitis Cause Complications?

Complications caused by pancreatitis can lead to serious complications, such as digestive and kidney diseases that can lead to life-threatening illnesses. The disease has a direct effect on your internal organs. For example, when an infection happens in the common bile duct, which carries bile from the liver. The liver’s bile doesn’t move as it should, which causes inflammation in the common bile duct and the pancreas. If the bile doesn’t flow as it should, it can cause a life-threatening illness.

Pancreatitis can cause other problems, such as;

  • Kidney Failure
  • Diabetes, if there is damage to cells that make insulin
  • Kidney diseases
  • Nutrient deficiencies result from insufficient digestive enzymes
  • Pancreatic cancer
  • Acute pancreatitis increases the susceptibility of your pancreas to bacteria and pancreatic infections
  • Acute pancreatitis can cause your body to produce an excessive amount of the two digestive enzymes amylase and lipase. As a result, the rate at which you digest food slows.

How Is Pancreatitis Diagnosed?

Doctors will perform a physical exam to determine your acute pancreatitis by pressing down on your stomach to see if it hurts. They will also test for low temperature and a fast heart rate.

Imaging tests, like a CT scan, may be able to help you figure out how healthy your pancreas is. Your physician will also run blood tests to check your blood sugar levels. A pancreatic function test determines how well the pancreas releases digestive enzymes for a proper diagnosis. The doctor may also run a diabetes test.

Your doctor checks your blood to see how much amylase and lipase are in it to figure out if you have acute pancreatitis. If these two digestive enzymes are high, you likely have acute pancreatitis. They will also examine white blood cells, blood sugar, calcium, and how well your liver works. This test is very important because pancreatitis can also lead to liver disease.

Other tests used to diagnose pancreatitis include:

  • Endoscopic ultrasound, which takes pictures of your pancreas to show pancreatic duct inflammation and possible causes like bile duct issues
  • ERCP test, where your doctor uses a long tube with a camera to examine your pancreatic and bile ducts.
  • Sometimes, your physician may run a glucose tolerance test on the damaged pancreatic tissue to verify the diagnosis.

How Is Pancreatitis Treated

Depending on the type of pancreatitis, you can treat it in various ways. Acute pancreatitis cases are easier to treat and usually go away after a few days of rest and treatment. However, If you have chronic pancreatitis, you might need specialist care. Here are some treatment options for pancreatitis.

Acute Pancreatitis Treatment

When you have acute pancreatitis, your treatment begins with painkillers. Pain medication makes you feel good enough to continue your treatment. You might need a tube through your nose and your stomach to drain it.

Depending on how long the attack lasts, you may be unable to digest food on your own. So, you could be fed and hydrated through an IV. You’ll be taken to a hospital and given medical care if that happens. Your medication will include the following:

  • Antibiotics to treat infection in the pancreas
  • Pain medicine to help with pain relief
  • A low-fat diet plan will help the healing process as its low in calories. The diet also helps you achieve a healthy weight.

In very serious cases, doctors may use endoscopic retrograde cholangiopancreatography. In this procedure, a tube is put down your throat and into your stomach and upper intestines. The tube helps to remove gallstones that are blocking your bile duct. A plastic tube called a stent or a small cut is made to remove stones from the bile duct.

Surgery can also remove dead tissue blocking pancreatic enzymes from reaching the small intestine and returning to the pancreas.

Chronic Pancreatitis Treatment

The doctor will concentrate on pain relief, and hormones control if you have chronic pancreatitis. They will also keep you from getting prescription painkillers addiction, even though you need them to relieve pain.

Chronic pancreatitis may take longer to treat because patients often develop complications. A complete blood count and other blood tests may be necessary while treating the illness. You may be put on pancreatic enzyme replacement therapy to help your digestive system break down food again. This will also make it less likely that you will have new attacks.

Injecting anesthetics into the nerve endings near the spine can also help ease the pain. If painkillers or nerve blocks don’t help, surgery may be the only way to get rid of the damaged pancreatic tissue. But this is the last option.

Endoscopic retrograde cholangiopancreatography can also help to relieve pain and clear blockages. Your diabetes may require insulin, pain medicine, and more pancreatic enzymes to help your body absorb nutrients from food.

After diagnosis, you should avoid taking alcohol to prevent pancreatitis from worsening. Even if alcohol wasn’t the main cause of your illness, cutting back will help you fight it. Also, it would be best if you didn’t smoke because it can make you more likely to get pancreatic cancer. You might need to cut down on how much fat you eat and take vitamins.

How to Prevent Pancreatitis

According to the National Pancreas Foundation, the main cause of pancreatitis is excessive alcohol consumption. So, if you want to prevent pancreatitis, try to limit your drinking or avoid drinking at all.

If your drinking is out of control, talk to a healthcare practitioner about enrolling in an alcohol care facility. A support group could also be of assistance. To avoid pancreatitis, you should also consider quitting smoking. Abide your doctor’s and dietitian’s dietary advice, and take your medications to make your Pancreatitis attacks less severe and regular.

It would help if you also ate a well-balanced diet to prevent gallstones. Your daily meal plan should include at least 5 fresh fruits and vegetable servings. You should also eat whole grains like those in wholemeal bread, oats, and brown rice. This brings down the amount of cholesterol in your body.

Final Thoughts

Pancreatitis is one of the most dangerous diseases, and women are more likely to get it than men. But the risk factors, such as drinking too much alcohol, can be easy to avoid. You can also take liver detox supplements for the same. Even though research and medical breakthroughs have led to a big drop in acute pancreatitis hospitalizations, it is still your job to live a responsible life. Complications pancreatitis brings are bad for our health and are avoidable. Taking responsibility for yourself can help eliminate the causes of pancreatitis in women worldwide.

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