Pancreatitis is a potentially life-threatening condition that can be brought about with heavy drinking over time or alcoholism. The pancreas provides enzymes the body needs to digest food, and contains the cells that produce insulin for your system. When you develop pancreatitis, you will experience certain symptoms.
Pancreatitis causes a release of enzymes in your system that causes the destruction of the pancreas itself, leading to severe pain, blood loss (due to bleeding in the stomach), infection, and in more severe cases shock and death. It can also cause malnutrition (if the pancreas is no longer providing the enzymes needed to digest food), chronic diarrhea, and diabetes (due to insulin producing cells being destroyed).
The pancreas is considered a vital organ, but a very low percentage of people have survived the removal of the pancreas. Some alcoholics will develop pancreatitis while others don’t, but drinking heavily will make the drinker more susceptible.
Acute pancreatitis develops suddenly with mild to severe pain in the upper abdomen that can continue to your back and sometimes your chest area. The pain is constant for hours to possibly days, and is agitated by drinking or eating.
Other signs and symptoms of acute pancreatitis include:
- Nausea and vomiting
- Swollen and painful abdomen
- A rapid pulse
- In the more severe cases, dehydration, low blood pressure, internal bleeding, and sometimes shock
- Weight loss, in spite of normal eating habits
The individual can have episodes of acute pancreatitis, and each episode will damage the pancreas further.
Chronic pancreatitis does ongoing damage to your pancreas and is dangerous because it can take years before the signs and symptoms appear. Some people with chronic pancreatitis do not experience any pain, but most will have periodic bouts of severe abdominal pain.
Alcoholism is a major cause if not the most common cause of pancreatitis, and once pancreatitis has set in if the drinking continues the more serious consequences are the result.