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What Your Pancreas Might Be Trying to Tell You

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

Pancreatitis symptoms signal inflammation and infection of the pancreas, a painful and serious problem. Knowing what symptoms are a sign of pancreatitis help you find out when you should visit a doctor to prevent the problem from getting out of hand.

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    What is Pancreatitis?

    Pancreatitis, simply put, defines the condition that involves an inflamed and very painful pancreas. The pancreas, which is located just behind your upper stomach, is a long, yellow gland responsible for enzyme production. Without it, your digestion suffers, as do your weight management and bowel movement.

    There are two types of pancreatitis, acute and chronic. Acute pancreatitis comes on quickly and may remain for many days while chronic pancreatitis may exist for years.

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    General Symptoms

    Not every digestive problem is a symptom of pancreatitis, but look out for some commonly experienced symptoms like pain in your upper abdominal region. This pain won’t just stay in your stomach area, but might also be felt in the left side of your back.

    Your pancreas, since it’s inflamed, will feel sensitive when that area is touched. It might feel swollen or puffy, like any other part of your body feels when inflamed.

    Some other symptoms include vomiting and feelings of vomiting. Obviously, these two go with the territory of just about any digestive complex, so this doesn’t necessarily outline pancreatitis as the problem in this case.

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    Symptoms of Acute Pancreatitis

    There are a few pancreatitis symptoms that aren’t always present in other digestive disorders, so you can diagnose it as pancreatitis more easily.

    Your breathing and heart rate will take a spike with acute pancreatitis. You might have a highly elevated heart rate that will result in heavy, quick breathing and feeling out of breath. If this is the case, you might actually be in shock, in which case you’ll need to get to the emergency room right away. Your hands will feel sweaty, a bit clammy and your skin might change color a little as well.

    You need to call a doctor if you have any of these indications, as pancreatitis can threaten your life if gone unchecked.

    According to WrongDiagnosis.com, alcoholism and gallstones are among the leading causes of acute pancreatitis.

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    Symptoms of Chronic Pancreatitis

    In the case of chronic pancreatitis, you might feel more like there is a disruption in your overall digestion. As you’re experiencing these symptoms, you’ll also get some heartburn-like pancreatitis symptoms, too. Notice certain changes in your stool and weight, for starters. If your pancreas is inflamed, you might start losing weight, even though you’re not on a diet. You might also start having excessively disgusting bowel movements. They might slide out quickly and feel and look oily or greasy. It will likely be more diarrheal than stool-like as well.

    Alcoholism is one of the leading causes of chronic pancreatitis, as is the case with acute pancreatitis.

    Both types of pancreatitis share certain symptoms, such as severe pain in the upper stomach. Those with the acute condition may eventually end up developing the chronic condition.