If you have unexplained weight loss that lasts more than a few weeks, call your doctor. This can be a warning sign of pancreatic cancer.
Your doctor will focus treatment on your nutritional and metabolic needs and on relieving your pain. Mild pain can be treated with analgesics.
- If the cause of acute pancreatitis is gallstones, you may have to have your gallbladder removed to prevent further attacks.
- If the bile duct is found to be enlarged, you may need an ERCP to drain it. An ERCP is a way your doctor can examine your pancreas, pancreatic duct, the bile ducts, and/or the sphincter of Oddi. It involves passage of a long, narrow tube with a light and a camera at the end called an endoscope, through your mouth into your esophagus, stomach, and to the beginning of the small intestine. There, the endoscope is used to put x-ray contrast dye into the bile and pancreas ducts to look for gallstones or other blockages. In severe cases, surgery will be required to drain the pancreatic duct or to remove part of the pancreas.
- Your doctor will also likely give you dietary guidelines to follow in order to reduce the amount of fats you eat, since your body has trouble digesting these substances.
- You may also need to take pancreatic enzyme supplements, which are in the form of a tablet, every time you eat a meal. These supplements will help your body absorb food, and help you regain some of the lost weight.
- A low-fat diet and the enzyme supplements may help control pain by reducing stimulation of the pancreas.
- If you drink alcohol, you need to stop drinking.
- If you have a pancreatic pseudocyst, it may need to be drained by an endoscopic, radiological or surgical procedure.
While pancreatitis is still not fully understood, there are some steps you can take to prevent pancreatitis from occurring again:
- If the cause is gallstones and your gallbladder has not been removed, avoid fatty and greasy foods, such as butter and fried eggs.
- Work with your gastroenterologist to develop a healthy eating plan.
- Ultimately, you may need your gallbladder removed. Your doctor should help you decide whether this surgery is needed.
- If the cause is alcohol, you should stop drinking altogether.
Hope for the Future
Most people who have chronic pancreatitis have a good prognosis if they follow the required dietary changes and take their medications and required supplements.
If their condition was caused by drinking, they will have a positive outcome if they stop drinking and continue follow-up treatment.