Pancreatitis is inflammation in the pancreas. The pancreas is a long, flat gland that sits tucked behind the stomach in the upper abdomen. The pancreas produces enzymes that assist digestion and hormones that help regulate the way your body processes sugar (glucose).

Pancreatitis can occur as acute pancreatitis — meaning it appears suddenly and lasts for days. Or pancreatitis can occur as chronic pancreatitis, which describes pancreatitis that occurs over many years.

Mild cases of pancreatitis may go away without treatment, but severe cases can cause life-threatening complications.

Symptoms Causes Complications

Signs and symptoms of pancreatitis may vary, depending on which type you experience.

Acute pancreatitis signs and symptoms include:

  • Upper abdominal pain
  • Abdominal pain that radiates to your back
  • Abdominal pain that feels worse after eating
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Tenderness when touching the abdomen

Chronic pancreatitis signs and symptoms include:

  • Upper abdominal pain
  • Losing weight without trying
  • Oily, smelly stools (steatorrhea)

When to see a doctor

Make an appointment with your doctor if you have persistent abdominal pain. Seek immediate medical help if your abdominal pain is so severe that you can't sit still or find a position that makes you more comfortable.

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