Pancreatitis is an inflammation of the pancreas – the large gland that secretes digestive enzymes into the small intestine. Enzymes are essential in the digestion of fats, proteins and carbohydrates. In cystic fibrosis, these digestive enzymes cannot travel to the small intestines to digest food because the pancreatic ducts are blocked with mucus. In pancreatitis, the digestive enzymes become active in the pancreas (which is not normal) and can start to ‘digest’ the pancreas. This leads to inflammation and other problems such as gall stones, cysts and internal bleeding.
Pancreatitis is usually associated with alcoholism. However, up to 30% of pancreatitis cases are of unknown cause or origin. Studies show that 13-37% of patients with pancreatitis have a mutation on the gene responsible for CF.
Treatment for pancreatitis depends on the severity and symptoms. Antibiotics, oxygen and a hospital stay (for intravenous fluids replenishment) are often required. Occasionally, surgery may be necessary if cysts or gallstones have developed due to pancreatitis.
People suffering from pancreatitis are advised not to drink alcohol and eat large meals. They should eat a high-carbohydrate, low-fat diet and take enzyme supplements.
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