What Is It?
Pancreatitis is inflammation of the pancreas, the large gland located behind the stomach. People with chronic pancreatitis have persistent inflammation of the pancreas that leads to permanent damage.
The main function of the pancreas is to produce digestive enzymes and hormones, such as insulin, that regulate blood sugar levels. Damage to the pancreas can cause problems with digestion, absorption of nutrients, and production of insulin. As a result, people with chronic pancreatitis can lose weight, experience diarrhea, become malnourished with vitamin deficiencies and develop diabetes.
It usually takes several years for permanent changes and symptoms to occur. Most cases of chronic pancreatitis are caused by long-standing over use of alcohol. Since only 5% to 10% of alcoholics develop chronic pancreatitis, there probably are other factors that influence whether someone develops chronic pancreatitis. It is generally thought that people who continue to drink after one or more bouts of alcohol-related acute pancreatitis are more likely to develop chronic pancreatitis.