Pancreatitis Symptoms In Adults: What To Know From Diagnosis To Finding Relief?


Pancreatitis refers to inflammation of the pancreas, a large gland located behind the stomach that produces digestive enzymes and insulin. Pancreatitis symptoms can range from mild to life-threatening depending on severity.

Understanding the causes, recognizing the symptoms early, and appropriate medical treatment is key to managing this condition.

Understanding Pancreatitis

The pancreas produces enzymes for breaking down fats, proteins, and carbs. Pancreatitis results when these enzymes activate inside the pancreas and start digesting the organ itself, causing it to become inflamed and swollen.


Mild cases cause minimal damage while severe pancreatitis can destroy the pancreas rapidly.

Symptoms Of Pancreatitis In Adults

Here are the most common symptoms of pancreatitis that can manifest in adults:

  • Severe upper abdominal pain that can radiate to the back
  • Pain that feels sharp, stabbing, or piercing, and worsens after eating
  • Abdominal pain when pressing on the abdomen
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Fever, chills, and rapid heart rate
  • Diarrhea or constipation
  • Greasy, foul-smelling stools
  • Bloating and fluid buildup in the abdomen
  • Loss of appetite and unexplained weight loss
  • Fat intolerance as digestion is impaired
  • Yellowing of the skin and eyes (jaundice)
  • Tenderness of the abdomen

The hallmark symptom of pancreatitis is persistent, debilitating upper abdominal pain. The pain may start gradually and build or begin suddenly and intensely if caused by a blocked pancreatic duct.

Seeking prompt medical treatment is crucial, as abdominal pain can indicate a life-threatening condition.

Causes Of Pancreatitis

Here are the most common causes and risk factors for developing pancreatitis in adults:

    • Gallstones – Gallstones blocking the pancreatic duct and bile drainage are the leading cause.
    • Heavy alcohol use – Toxins from alcohol metabolism can inflame and damage the pancreas.
    • High triglycerides – Having very high levels of triglycerides in the blood.
    • Medications – Some prescription drugs like steroids, blood pressure meds, and antibiotics.
    • Pancreas divisum – A congenital defect causing improper drainage.
    • Trauma – Any blunt injury or trauma directly to the abdomen area.
    • Surgery – Post-operative pancreatitis can occur after some surgeries.
    • Cystic fibrosis – Genetic disorder that causes pancreas secretions to become thick.
    • Tumors – Cancerous or benign tumors blocking ducts or altering tissue.
    • Autoimmune disease – When the immune system attacks pancreas cells.
    • Infections – Certain viral infections like mumps and

    Reducing alcohol intake, managing triglycerides, and preventing gallstones can lower risk. However, some causes like anatomy, genetics, and trauma cannot be prevented fully.

    Treatment Options

    • Hospitalization – For monitoring, pain management, and hydration.
    • IV fluids To prevent dehydration and maintain electrolyte balance.
    • Analgesics – Pain medications for relief.
    • Bowel rest – No food or drink until swelling subsides, then gradual reintroduction.
    • Nutritional support – IV nutrition or tube feeding if eating is not tolerated.
    • Surgery – If gallstones, cysts, or obstructions need removal.
    • Medications – Antibiotics for infection. Insulin to control blood sugars.
    • Stop alcohol use – Eliminating alcohol is imperative as it caused the condition.

    Most cases resolve within a few days with bowel rest and pain management in the hospital. Severe pancreatitis may require weeks before resuming normal diet and activities.


    While an episode of acute pancreatitis often resolves fully with proper medical treatment, the disease can become chronic and progressive without eliminating the cause. Gallstones and alcohol misuse account for most cases.

    Seeking prompt treatment for symptoms like abdominal pain and vomiting can prevent complications from this inflammatory condition.


    1. Does pancreatitis cause permanent damage?

    It can if episodes are recurrent. Scarring can impair insulin and enzyme production over time.

    2. How is pancreatitis diagnosed?

    Through blood tests for pancreatic enzymes, imaging like CT scans, and assessment of symptoms.

    3. What foods should you avoid with pancreatitis

    No solid food is recommended at the outset. Then low fiber, low fat, and minimal alcohol and caffeine during recovery.

    4. Can pancreatitis come on suddenly?

    Yes, acute attacks can arise abruptly and severely, especially if caused by a gallstone blocking a duct.

    5. Does pancreatitis cause back pain?

    Yes, pancreatitis commonly causes abdominal pain that can radiate to the upper back.

    Dr. Jun Ren is a dedicated and experienced registered dietitian and nutritionist who is committed to helping people achieve their health goals through personalized nutrition plans. With a passion for promoting healthy eating habits and preventing chronic diseases, Dr. Ren has been able to assist numerous clients in improving their overall quality of life.

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