Pancreatitis is an inflammation of the pancreas. It may be caused by a number of factors, including gallstones, alcohol, certain medications, a serious viral or bacterial infection, trauma to the abdomen, high triglyceride levels, or high blood calcium levels.
There are two types of pancreatitis:
Acute pancreatitis is a short-term, sudden inflammation which usually resolves with intensive treatment. It can be a severe, life-threatening condition. There are about 80,000 cases each year in the US, of which 20% are severe. Acute pancreatitis occurs more frequently in men than women, and may be caused by gallstones.
Chronic pancreatitis is a disease process that occurs over a longer period of time, and which does not resolve itself without treatment. It can slowly destroy the pancreas, causing, in severe cases bleeding, infection and tissue damage, as well as pseudocysts ñ fluid accumulation and tissue debris. In acute pancreatitis, enzymes and toxins can flood the bloodstream, causing injury to major organs including lungs, kidneys, and heart. Chronic pancreatitis may occur if acute pancreatitis is not resolved.