Why you need to know more about your pancreas

say hello to your pancreas

Is your pancreas kranky? Here’s what you need to know

Do you know what your pancreas does? Or where it is? Or what it does? Or what happens when it’s not working properly? At Guts UK it’s Kranky Panky Pancreatitis Awareness Month and that means the pancreas is in the spotlight. Prof. Ryan has a special interest in pancreatic conditions and procedures. She has teamed up with Guts UK as one of their clinical advisors in a special initiative they’ve started with patients who have a particular pancreatic problem, called chronic pancreatitis.  So we’re really keen to support this brilliantly named campaign about an often-overlooked organ.

What is the pancreas?

It’s an organ that lies behind the stomach in the upper left of your abdomen. Your pancreas has two main functions:

  • It produces insulin, which is vital to keeping your blood sugar under control. Damage to the pancreas can lead to diabetes
  • It also produces a number of important digestive enzymes that are vital to helping digest fat and also some carbohydrates

How can the pancreas become damaged?

The pancreas can become inflamed- this is called pancreatitis, and when this happens it is usually extremely painful and will usually result in someone having to be admitted to hospital. Pancreatitis is a serious condition. Pain from pancreatitis usually causes pain in the upper central or upper left part of the tummy and the pain often bores through into the back.

Acute Pancreatitis

When the pancreas becomes inflamed suddenly, it causes sudden, severe pain and can also cause vomiting, fever and other symptoms.

Most people with acute pancreatitis will recover and have no further problems but some people with severe acute pancreatitis can develop serious complications and have a prolonged admission to hospital.

Chronic Pancreatitis

This occurs when there has been long-lasting inflammation of the pancreas and it has been permanently damaged. It also causes severe abdominal pain, particularly after eating. As well as pain, people with chronic pancreatitis can also have other symptoms including:

  • Weight loss
  • Nausea
  • Diarrhoea- the stools can have a very strong odour and are often yellow or oily looking

What causes pancreatitis?

  • Alcohol is a major cause: Either binge drinking (can cause acute pancreatitis) or drinking too much over a long period of time (can cause both acute and chronic pancreatitis)
  • Gallstones – sometimes if a gallstone passes out of the gallbladder into the gut, it can trigger pancreatitis
  • Some people have a genetic tendency to develop pancreatitis
  • It can be triggered by certain autoimmune conditions or even viral infections
  • Sometimes there is no obvious cause at all

How can you look after your pancreas?

  • Don’t binge drink and keep your alcohol intake within the safe-drinking guidelines
  • Don’t smoke
  • Some people are unlucky though and develop acute or chronic pancreatitis for some of the reasons we mentioned above despite following a healthy lifestyle

Guts UK have some excellent fact sheets available on their website that explain these conditions, diagnosis and treatments further. They also have some tips on living with pancreatitis and may be able to put you in touch with a support group.

See @GutsUK to learn more about the Kranky Panky campaign and pancreatitis.

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 ©The Gut Experts 2021

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