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What causes pancreatitis?

Pancreatitis is caused by digestive enzymes that are normally active outside the pancreas, but instead become active inside the pancreas and attack the pancreatic tissue. The attack of the enzymes causes the tissue to swell and become inflamed.

One cause for this is gallstones, which can travel through the pancreas and lodge in the common bile duct, causing a large build up of digestive enzymes that begin to activate and attack the cells in the pancreatic tissue; this is the most common cause of the acute form.

Consuming large amounts of alcohol or moderate amounts on a daily basis can cause drainage of pancreatic fluid to be clogged and result in a build up of the digestive enzymes in the pancreas. Similarly, injury, cystic fibrosis, medications, and high levels of calcium or fat in the blood may also cause clogged ducts in the pancreas leading to pancreatitis.

Pancreatitis has a range of possible causes, including:

• Gallstones
• Alcohol use
• Anatomic problems of the pancreatic and bile ducts
• Some medications like estrogen supplements and some diuretics
• Severe viral or bacterial infection
• Injury to the abdomen
• Elevated triglyceride levels, called hyper triglyceridemia
• Elevated calcium blood levels, called hypercalcemia
• Genetic causes such as cystic fibrosis gene carriers.

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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.