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What Causes Pancreatitis in Adults?

written by: Rochelle Connery • edited by: lrohner • updated: 5/31/2011

Pancreatitis has a variety of causes. Some have to do with lifestyle habits, while others have to do with medical conditions that may be out of your control. Find out how you might be able to prevent or reduce the possibility of getting pancreatitis.

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    About Pancreatitis

    Pancreatitis is a potentially life-threatening condition where the pancreas gets inflamed for one of several reasons. When this happens, the enzymes that the pancreas formulates begin to activate while inside the pancreas instead of waiting until they reach the small intestine where they are supposed to carry out their digestive function. This process injures the pancreas and leads to either acute or chronic pancreatitis.

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    Lifestyle Habits

    Some of your favorite vices might irritate or prompt pancreatitis. Alcoholism is a common cause of the disease in the case of both acute and chronic pancreatitis. A few drinks on the weekends might not harm you, but continually drinking alcohol on a regular basis and in copious quantities can launch a pancreas attack that ends in pancreatitis. WebMD postulates that this could be due to alcohol backing up the enzymes in the pancreas, which in turn inflame it.

    Smoking cigarettes is also one of the common causes of pancreatitis. This should be no surprise, as smoking cigarettes can cause a variety of serious health issues.

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    Bodily Problems

    A number of sicknesses and conditions are causes of pancreatitis. Some of these you may or may not have any control over. In some cases, the medicines you take to get rid of one condition may lead to you getting pancreatitis.

    Getting an infection in your body can lead to your pancreas getting infected, and thereby inflamed. WebMD cites getting the mumps as one such problem.

    If you get injured, especially on your pancreas or in the abdominal region in general, you can cause trauma to the pancreas. A hard punch or kick in the stomach might not cause problems all the time, as is thought in the case of appendicitis and such, but it can have an impact. Also, having surgery in this area can act like an injury and thereby cause the pancreas to get enflamed.

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    Gallstones

    You might not have any control over other digestive ailments that could lead to pancreatitis. Gallstones are generally the leading cause of the acute version of pancreatitis. Treatments used to treat gallstones may also prompt the problem.

    Gallstones irritate the pancreas when they block bile from the gall bladder to the common bile duct, which links the gall bladder through the pancreas and small intestine.This blockage prohibits the enzymes from passing into the small intestine, thereby leading to the inflammation that causes pancreatitis.

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    Medicines

    A number of prescription drugs and hormonal medications can cause or exacerbate pancreatitis. Common medicinal causes include steroid treatments, including corticosteroids. Hormone supplements, especially those containing estrogen, may lead to this condition as well.

    Medicines for other chronic conditions, like those having to do with the kidneys or diabetes, may affect the pancreas as well. Additionally, if you take drugs for HIV, such as Didanosine, you can increase your chances of getting this condition.

    You should always ask your doctor about how your medicine will affect your chances of getting pancreatitis. In some cases, he might prescribe a different medicine or make another recommendation.

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    Pancreatitis Prevention

    Making lifestyle changes on your own can help reduce your chances of getting this problem. If you’re prone to it already, put yourself on a diet consisting of fairly fat-free foods, and drink lots of water. Remember to cut out the alcohol and smoking, too, as it’s easier to quit now, before you get pancreatitis, than it is to stop it after you’re diagnosed with the problem.

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