Alcoholism and Pancreatitis

Pancreatitis is a serious, and in many cases fatal, disease that is directly linked to alcohol addiction. Pancreatitis is an inflammation and swelling of the pancreas. It causes severe abdominal pain and inhibits the pancreas’ ability to function.

The pancreas serves an important role in the body, producing powerful enzymes to digest food and creating and regulating insulin to keep blood sugar in check and utilize energy properly.  

There are two forms of Pancreatitis– acute and chronic as described by Medline.

Acute Pancreatitis

Acute Pancreatitis lasts for short periods of time and then resolves. The severity can range from mild to life-threatening, so it is important to take symptoms very seriously. Symptoms include: swollen or tender abdomen, abdominal pain that radiates to the back (often exacerbated by eating fatty foods), vomiting, nausea, increased heart rate, and fever. 

Most acute pancreatitis cases achieve a full recovery but in more severe instances, there can be permanent damage to tissues, infections, and even cyst formation.

Alcoholism and Pancreatitis
Chronic Pancreatitis

Chronic Pancreatitis is a form that does not heal or improve. It is a long-lasting inflammation that continues after the acute stage. Eventually, it inhibits a person’s ability to digest food and make pancreatic hormones. It also causes chronic pain in the abdomen and lower back. 

Individuals with Chronic Pancreatitis often lose weight, even when their appetite and eating habits are normal, because the body does not secrete enough pancreatic enzymes to digest food properly. Therefore they are unable to absorb nutrients, leading to malnutrition. 

Heavy drinking is a primary cause of Chronic Pancreatitis and is one of the most severe long-term effects of alcoholism.  In fact, those heavy drinkers who are diagnosed with CP are typically unable to stop on their own. Most physicians will recommend an alcohol treatment program to help the patient into recovery, in order to slow the damage to the Pancreas.

The survival rate at 10 years following diagnosis is around 70%, and 45% at 20 years following diagnosis. This means that the disease kills 55% of those who have it within 20 years. 

Alcoholism and Pancreatitis

In addition to increasing the risk of both types of Pancreatitis, alcohol abuse causes ongoing damage to the body that can result in permanent diseases like Fatty Liver Disease, Kidney Disease, and Heart Disease (the leading cause of death in America). 

If you feel you are currently facing alcohol addiction and would like to stop, there is help available to you. Contact our specialists.

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