The gastrointestinal or what is generally known as digestive system consist of several organs and processes. This helps the human body to process all the food eaten and gain nutrients for the body itself. Pancreas, one of the organs involved with the digestive system plays a vital role in breaking down the food we eat through enzymatic processes. The enzymes are amylase, lipase and protease and acts on carbohydrate, fat and protein respectively to aid with digestion process. The digestive process can be greatly affected when the pancreas becomes problematic. Another function of the pancreas is to produce hormones such as insulin and glucagon to help control the blood sugar level.
What causes pancreas problems? The most common causes of the problems are excessive consumption of alcohol or alcohol abuse and gallstones blocking the pancreatic duct. Gallstones are small stones made up of cholesterol and usually found in the gallbladder. There are numerous other causes that could lead to pancreas problems but we will save it for later. Basically, pancreatitis and pancreatic cancer are two of the most common diseases associated with pancreas problems.
Pancreatitis is defined as an inflamed pancreas marked by the redness and swelling of the pancreas. It is caused by a sudden attack from the digestive juices or enzymes attacking the pancreas itself. This happens due to the abnormal activation of zymogen (an enzyme that is supposed to be activated only when it reaches the small intestine) in the pancreas. Causes of the pancreas problems aside alcohol abuse and gallstone include trauma to the pancreas, a belly injury/surgery, high level of fat or calcium in the blood, medications, infections, tumour and other unknown causes. Pancreatitis is divided into three types which are acute pancreatitis, chronic pancreatitis and hereditary pancreatitis.
1- Acute pancreatitis: It is characterised by a sudden inflammation process. The pain can be severe and last for several days. Most patients with acute pancreatitis reach full recovery and the pancreas return to normal.
2- Chronic pancreatitis: It is characterised by a long-lasting inflammation that causes permanent destruction to the pancreas. This led to scarring of the pancreatic tissue. This disease is common among men aged 30 to 40 years old. Chronic pancreatitis may be confused with acute pancreatitis as a person usually shows similar symptoms such as upper abdominal pain, nausea, vomiting, diarrhoea, bloating and fever. A person with chronic pancreatitis may develop malnutrition and weight loss as time goes by and when the pancreas is destroyed at some point, the person will develop diabetes as a result of the pancreas stop producing the enzyme like the insulin.
3- Hereditary pancreatitis: A type of pancreatitis related to the abnormality of the pancreas or intestine that runs in the family. Most people with hereditary pancreatitis have a mutation gene to the trypsinogen gene that is linked to production of zymogen. This disease causes a person experiencing recurrent or repeated episodes of the pancreatitis, typically occurring in a person under the age of 30. Just as in chronic pancreatitis, hereditary pancreatitis can cause similar complications to the patient.
Pancreatic cancer is a type of cancer that grows silently and does not cause symptoms at the beginning of the disease course. Common symptoms are yellowish of the skin or whites of the eyes (jaundice) with or without pain of the stomach or the back. This cancer is common in the elderly and rarely under the age of 40. Smoking and being overweight increase the chance for pancreatic cancer. Other causes include chronic pancreatitis, gallstones, diabetes, metabolic syndrome, alcohol and exposure to high energy radiation such as in radiotherapy. Know about our hajj vaccination package.