Pancreatitis is the redness and swelling (inflammation) of the pancreas. This happens when digestive juices or enzymes attack the pancreas.

The pancreas lies behind your stomach on the left side of your belly. It is close to the first part of your small intestine (the duodenum).

The pancreas is a gland. It does 2 main things:

  • It makes enzymes and sends them into your small intestine. These enzymes help break down food.
  • It makes the hormones insulin and glucagon and sends them into your bloodstream. These hormones control your body’s blood sugar level.

Pancreatitis may be sudden (acute) or ongoing (chronic).

Acute pancreatitis

  • Is a sudden inflammation
  • Lasts for a short time
  • Lets the pancreas return to normal afterward
  • May cause serious problems or be deadly in severe cases

Chronic pancreatitis

  • Is a long-lasting inflammation that comes and goes over time
  • Causes permanent damage to the pancreas
  • Often causes scarring of pancreatic tissue
  • May cause the pancreas to stop making enzymes and insulin in severe cases


Acute pancreatitis causes include:

  • Autoimmune diseases
  • Drinking lots of alcohol
  • Infections
  • Gallstones
  • Medications
  • Metabolic disorders
  • Surgery
  • Trauma
  • In up to 15% of people with acute pancreatitis, the cause is unknown.

Chronic pancreatitis causes include:

  • Cystic fibrosis
  • Family history of pancreas disorders
  • Gallstones
  • High triglycerides
  • Longtime alcohol use
  • Medications
  • In about 20% to 30% of cases, the cause of chronic pancreatitis is unknown. People with chronic pancreatitis are usually men between ages 30 and 40.


The primary symptom of pancreatitis is abdominal pain.

Additional symptoms of acute pancreatitis may include:

  • Nausea and vomiting.
  • Fast heart rate.
  • Fast, shallow breathing.
  • Fever.

Additional symptoms of chronic pancreatitis may include:

  • Indigestion and pain after eating.
  • Loss of appetite and unintended weight loss.
  • Fatty poops that leave an oily film in the toilet.
  • Lightheadedness (low blood pressure).

These are symptoms of your pancreatic functions beginning to break down.


Tests and procedures used to diagnose pancreatitis include:

  • Blood tests to look for elevated levels of pancreatic enzymes, along with white blood cells, kidney function and liver enzymes
  • Abdominal ultrasound to look for gallstones and pancreas inflammation
  • Computerized tomography (CT) scan to look for gallstones and assess the extent of pancreas inflammation
  • Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) to look for abnormalities in the gallbladder, pancreas and ducts
  • Endoscopic ultrasound to look for inflammation and blockages in the pancreatic duct or bile duct
  • Stool tests in chronic pancreatitis to measure levels of fat that could suggest your digestive system isn't absorbing nutrients adequately

Your doctor may recommend other tests, depending on your particular situation.

Description Percentage

With frequently recurrent disabling attacks of abdominal pain with few pain free intermissions and with steatorrhea, malabsorption, diarrhea and severe malnutrition

Description Percentage

With frequent attacks of abdominal pain, loss of normal body weight and other findings showing continuing pancreatic insufficiency between acute attacks

Description Percentage

Moderately severe; with at least 4-7 typical attacks of abdominal pain per year with good remission between attacks

Description Percentage

With at least one recurring attack of typical severe abdominal pain in the past year


Note 1: Abdominal pain in this condition must be confirmed as resulting from pancreatitis by appropriate laboratory and clinical studies.


Note 2: Following total or partial pancreatectomy, rate under above, symptoms, minimum rating 30 percent

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