A recent study shows that African Americans are twice as likely to develop pancreatitis over the Caucasian population. Pancreatitis is inflammation of the pancreas, an organ that makes enzymes to help with food digestion and produces insulin to help regulate sugar in the body. Pancreatitis can be either acute or chronic bringing about different side effects and treatments.

Acute pancreatitis symptoms may include nausea, vomiting and abdominal pain which will often land you in the emergency room for evaluation and treatment. Chronic pancreatitis is more manageable at home with medications prescribed by your doctor to help with abdominal pain, weight loss and oily, smelly stool.

While there are many causes of pancreatitis, the two most common causes are smoking and alcohol use. The aforementioned study showed that African Americans were more likely to abuse alcohol, increasing risks for chronic pancreatitis, while Caucasians more often smoked heavily. Despite this difference, African Americans are still twice as likely to develop pancreatitis even while smoking less. This study shows that race may be an increased risk factor for African Americans.

Once any acute risks have been treated, pancreatitis is treated by discovering the underlying cause and removing it. Causes including gallstones, certain medications, cystic fibrosis, infection or injury will be treated either medically or surgically at the discretion of your doctor. However, smoking and alcohol use can only be stopped by you.

Untreated pancreatitis can lead to many serious health problems. Acute pancreatitis can damage your kidneys, cause breathing problems and lead to infection. Untreated chronic pancreatitis could lead to diabetes or even pancreatic cancer.

If you have been diagnosed with pancreatitis it is important to follow your doctor’s advice and remove the underlying cause. Talk with your doctor about ways to be successful and treatment options that may be right for you.

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