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  • Alcohol-Induced Pancreatitis | Causes, Symptoms, & Prevention

    Alcoholic Pancreatitis | Causes, Symptoms, & Prevention

    The pancreas is a large gland next to the small intestine in your body. Pancreatitis occurs when the pancreas is inflamed and when the organ is damaged or experiences dysfunction. When this occurs, it can be identified as chronic pancreatitis or acute pancreatitis. 

    While acute pancreatitis can present as urgent or even life-threatening, chronic pancreatitis causes long-lasting inflammation. Alcohol abuse and excessive alcohol consumption may lead to alcohol-induced pancreatitis, gastrointestinal problems, and other health concerns.

    Causes Of Alcoholic Pancreatitis

    Inflammation of the pancreas can have several causes, including:

    • issues with one’s gallbladder, including gallstones  
    • a number of pancreatic diseases such as pancreatic cancer 
    • drug abuse
    • biliary obstruction of the bile duct
    • alcohol and its byproducts

    Chronic Alcohol Use

    Chronic alcohol use is a common cause of pancreatitis and may have an effect on the small pancreatic ducts as well as the acinar cells. 

    When this takes place, pancreatic secretions may occur. This can then cause scarring of the pancreatic tissue by digestive enzymes, fibrosis, or ulcerations.  

    Another way alcohol damages the pancreas is by inducing oxidative stress. Pancreatic damage can occur in the form of necrosis, in which pancreas tissues die from lack of blood. The pancreas may develop toxic metabolites as well.

    Symptoms Of Alcoholic Pancreatitis

    The symptoms of acute pancreatitis may include:

    • elevated lipase levels
    • abdominal pain
    • steatorrhea
    • localized masses of dead tissue
    • fast heartbeat 
    • pseudocyst
    • nausea

    Those experiencing chronic pancreatitis may develop symptoms such as:

    • diarrhea
    • vomiting
    • weight loss
    • foul-smelling stools
    • fever

    Symptoms can become even more life-threatening and concerning if severe acute pancreatitis occurs. In severe cases, a painful inflammatory attack may require urgent medical attention.

    Preventing Alcoholic Pancreatitis

    In order to prevent alcohol-induced pancreatitis, it’s important to monitor your alcohol use. Be sure to only consume alcohol in moderation. Not only can alcohol cause problems with your pancreas, but it can also cause cirrhosis of the liver as well.

    Cases of acute pancreatitis have risen over the years, and with it, the number of hospital incidences. This is due in part to excessive alcohol use. Exocrine cells are destroyed by inflammation during acute pancreatitis which can lead to an insufficiency. 

    Blood Analysis

    To help determine if you’re suffering from acute or chronic pancreatitis, doctors may take an analysis of digestive enzymes in your blood to determine your amylase and lipase levels.

    If possible, your doctor may recommend pancreatic enzyme replacement therapy. This can help treat your pancreas and ease your symptoms. 

    Endoscopic Procedures

    Your doctor may also want to perform an endoscopic procedure in order to evaluate inflammation and any blockages. To discern if your pancreatitis is alcohol-induced or not, a health care professional may require a panel of triglyceride levels and calcium levels. 

    Your blood sugar may also need to be taken and part of treatment may require you to be on a low-fat diet. 

    Professional Substance Abuse Treatment

    If you suffer from a regular pattern of heavy drinking or binge drinking, you may require alcohol rehab to reduce alcohol consumption and the chances of developing pancreatitis.

    Treatment may include a combination of detox support, medication, therapy, and other supportive recovery services. To learn more about our treatment options, please contact us today.

    Written by Ark Behavioral Health Editorial Team
    ©2023 Ark National Holdings, LLC. | All Rights Reserved.
    This page does not provide medical advice.

    Alcohol Health and Research World - Alcohol-Related Pancreatic Damage
    American Pancreatic Association - Alcohol and the Pancreas
    Centers for Disease Control and Prevention - Excessive Alcohol Use
    National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases - Pancreatitis
    National Library of Medicine: MedlinePlus - Pancreatitis
    StatPearls - Alcoholic Pancreatitis

    Medically Reviewed by
    Manish Mishra, MBBS
    on July 4, 2022
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