Symptoms Of Swollen Pancreas: Causes Of Acute, Chronic Pancreatitis

Pancreas, though a vital organ of the abdomen is less known to general public as other organs, such as liver, stomach, kidney or intestine. In fact, any problem with pancreas can affect the whole system. Pancreas is situated behind the stomach and just adjacent to duodenum (first part of the small intestine). It is a leaf shaped gland made up of head, body and tail.

The vital functions of pancreas are:

  • It produces hormone insulin and glucagon, which is required for glucose metabolism. Insulin helps the circulating glucose in the blood to get converted into energy.
    Deficiency of insulin causes diabetes.
  • Pancreas secretes digestive enzymes. These enzymes, takes part in digesting fats, proteins and carbohydrates from the food that you eat. Deficiency of pancreatic enzyme results into malnutrition syndrome.

What Causes Acute And Chronic Pancreatitis?

The enzymes secreted by pancreas become active once they enter the small intestine. However, in abnormal circumstances the enzymes become active when present in the pancreas and start self destruction of pancreas. This may result into inflammation and swelling of the pancreas. The attack of pancreatitis can be mild to moderate or severe at times. If the attack is mild, there is little damage to the pancreas, however if the attack is acute and severe or chronic and severe it can lead to swollen pancreas.

  • Acute pancreatitis is when there is sudden inflammation of the pancreas. It is often a life threatening condition. One of the causes of acute pancreatitis is excessive alcohol intake since long time. Though it is the primary cause, it is not the only one. Gallstone blocking the pancreatic duct in the small intestine can cause inflammation and swelling of pancreas.
  • Chronic pancreatitis damages the pancreas permanently.
    Drinking alcohol even after the first episode of pancreatitis, high calcium and fat level in the blood, cystic fibrosis, autoimmune disease, and heredity are some of the reasons for chronic pancreatitis that leads to swollen pancreas.
  • Pseudocyst: accumulation of fluid in the pancreas can cause swollen pancreas. It generally develops after an acute attack of pancreatitis.
  • Pancreatic abscess and cancer of pancreas can also cause enlarged pancreas.

Symptoms Of Swollen Pancreas

  • To begin with, the person may experience fullness of the abdomen as a result of swollen pancreas. The abdomen may feel bloated and enlarged, with associated tenderness when you touch.
  • Pain in the upper abdominal region is usually persistent and radiates most frequently to the back before spreading all over the abdomen.
  • Nausea and vomiting are frequent.
  • Low blood pressure, severe sweating, cold and clammy body are other symptoms together with pain in the abdomen.
  • In acute pancreatitis, there may be fever with chills, dehydration, rapid and weak pulse.
  • Slight jaundice may develop, especially in case of gallstone obstruction.
  • White or pale colored stool, chronic diarrhea with an excess of fat and undigested muscle fibers in stool is present in swollen pancreas.
  • Loss of weight because of faulty digestion, this occurs in chronic pancreatitis.

Diet For Swollen Pancreas

Avoid Fatty foods: When the pancreas is swollen, there is deficiency of pancreatic enzyme. These enzymes are meant for digesting fats. In absence of the enzyme, if you eat fatty food the stools will be foul smelling, pale white and sticky as the fat is not digested. Avoid foods that are rich in fat when you suffer from swollen pancreas. They are butter, margarine, fried fish, red meat, steak, pork etc.

Eat fruits and vegetables: eat plenty of vegetables and fruits. They are rich source of antioxidants; they protect the pancreas from cellular damage and reduce the swelling. Eat all kind of fruits such as kiwi, strawberry, banana, pineapples, apples, grapes, oranges etc. and eat vegetables such as kale, broccoli, cabbage, spinach etc.

Eat high calorie and high protein diet to cure malnourishment and increase your weight. Eat oatmeal, rice, wheat, soybeans, lean meat, pasta etc.

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