Chronic Pancreatitis Causes and Symptoms

Cause and Burden of Chronic Pancreatitis

Whereas there are causes of chronic pancreatitis that are unknown; several factors have been identified to cause chronic pancreatitis:

  • Heavy alcohol use
  • Autoimmune conditions (when the body’s immune system attacks its own body)
  • Genetic mutations due to cystic fibrosis
  • Blocked pancreatic duct or common bile duct
  • Familial pancreatitis (runs in the family—with 2 or more immediate family members with a history of pancreatitis)

Symptoms of Chronic Pancreatitis

Most individuals with chronic pancreatitis experience upper abdominal pain, although some have no pain at all. The pain may spread to the back, become worse with eating or drinking, and become constant and disabling. In some cases, the abdominal pain goes away as the condition worsens, but this is fairly uncommon. Other symptoms include the following:

  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Weight loss
  • Diarrhea
  • Oily or fatty stools
  • Clay-colored or pale stools

Individuals with chronic pancreatitis frequently lose weight, even when their appetite and eating habits are normal. The weight loss occurs because the body does not secrete enough pancreatic enzymes to digest food, so nutrients are not absorbed normally, leading to malnutrition.

Patients who have chronic pancreatitis may have a decreased quality of life due to pain and often require admission to the hospital for treatment of symptoms.