Pancreatitis refers to a condition where the pancreas is inflamed. The pancreas is an organ that functions to produce digestive enzymes and hormones. It can be found behind the stomach. Pancreatitis can be divided into acute and chronic pancreatitis. The inflammation in the pancreas occurs when the pancreatic enzymes autodigest the gland.
In acute pancreatitis, the pancreas is able to heal without any morphologic changes or impairment of function. When the pancreatitis recurs intermittently and gradually contributes to the morphologic and functional loss of the pancreas, this is known as chronic pancreatitis. It is important for healthcare providers to recognize patients with pancreatitis to achieve the best outcomes for the patients. Both acute and chronic pancreatitis may present with acute clinical findings. Management of the disease will depend on the severity of the condition.
1. Normal Function of the Pancreas
Located in the upper abdomen behind the stomach, the pancreas is responsible for the production of insulin, and the manufacturing and secretion of enzymes for the digestion of fat, protein, and carbohydrates. Despite only weighing 0.1% of the body’s weight, it has a high protein producing capacity. The enzymes are produced by the acinar cells and packaged into vesicles known as zymogens. These are then released into the pancreatic duct and secreted into the small intestine. After the food has been digested, a feedback mechanism limits further pancreatic enzyme activation.