The most common cause of chronic pancreatitis is heavy alcohol use. Other causes include:
- Cystic fibrosis
- Autoimmune disorders
- Genetic factors
- Tropical pancreatitis (a rare form of chronic pancreatitis caused by malnutrition)
- Certain medications
The main symptom of chronic pancreatitis is abdominal pain. The pain can be mild or severe, and it may be constant or come and go. The pain is often located in the upper abdomen, and it may radiate to the back. Other symptoms of chronic pancreatitis include:
- Weight loss
- Fatty stools
- Nausea and vomiting
To diagnose chronic pancreatitis, your doctor will ask about your medical history and symptoms. They may also order blood tests, imaging tests, and a stool test.
There is no cure for chronic pancreatitis, but there are treatments that can help manage the symptoms and prevent complications. Treatment options include:
- Lifestyle changes, such as quitting drinking alcohol and smoking
- Pain medication
- Pancreatic enzyme supplements
- Surgery to remove damaged parts of the pancreas or to widen the ducts that carry pancreatic enzymes
Chronic pancreatitis can lead to a number of complications, including:
- Exocrine pancreatic insufficiency (EPI), which is a condition in which the pancreas does not produce enough digestive enzymes
- Pancreatic cancer
The best way to prevent chronic pancreatitis is to avoid heavy alcohol use and smoking. If you have a family history of chronic pancreatitis, talk to your doctor about ways to reduce your risk.
If you have chronic pancreatitis, it is important to work with your doctor to manage your symptoms and prevent complications.