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What causes acute pancreatitis?

Acute pancreatitis is usually caused by gallstones or the abuse of alcohol. When a gallstone blocks the duct that transports pancreatic fluid, the fluid begins to digest the pancreas and causes the inflammation. Other causes of acute pancreatitis include surgery or injury to the abdomen; some medications; tobacco use; high blood levels of parathyroid hormone, calcium or triglycerides; low blood sugar (hypoglycemia); infections and ulcers; cancer of the pancreas; and heredity.

Approximately 40% of all cases of acute pancreatitis (inflammation of the pancreas) are caused by gallstones while 30% are caused by alcohol abuse. Other less common causes are reactions to medications, elevation in triglycerides or calcium, or structural abnormalities. Patients suffering from acute pancreatitis typically have abrupt onset of upper abdominal pain that moves to the back and is associated with nausea and often vomiting. Cases of pancreatitis can vary from mild pain which can be managed as an outpatient with a bland, low fat diet and hydration to very severe requiring inpatient hospitalization, aggressive intravenous hydration and strong pain medications.

Continue Learning about Pancreatitis

What is chronic pancreatitis?
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How common is acute pancreatitis?
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What other conditions are found in people with pancreatitis?
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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.