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Pancreatitis

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What is Pancreatitis?

The pancreas is a small organ with very important responsibilities. It produces more than 20 enzymes that are necessary for digestion, and it also produces insulin which helps to regulate the way your body uses sugar for energy.

Pancreatitis is an inflammation of the pancreas, and it is the leading cause of gastrointestinal related hospitalisations in Singapore. There are two main types of pancreatitis:

Acute pancreatitis

  • Short and sudden inflammation
  • Ranges from mild to life-threatening
  • May cause tissue damage and harm to the lungs, kidneys, and heart
  • May develop into chronic pancreatitis

Chronic pancreatitis 

  • Long-lasting or recurrent inflammation
  • Damages the pancreas which then prolongs the inflammation
  • Affects the pancreas’ ability to produce insulin

What are the causes of Pancreatitis?

The causes of pancreatitis in general are as follows:
  • Excessive alcohol consumption of alcohol (5 or more drinks a day)
  • Gallstones travel down and get stuck in the bile-pancreatic duct
  • Viral or bacterial infections 
  • High levels triglycerides or fats in your blood
  • Genetic disorders that affect your pancreas
  • Abdominal injury
  • Pancreatic cancer
  • Medical procedures such as endoscopic retrograde cholangio-pancreatography (ERCP)
  • High levels of calcium in your blood
  • Pancreas divisum, congenital disorder where parts of the pancreas are not joined together

What are the common symptoms of Pancreatitis in Singapore?

The symptoms of pancreatitis vary depending on what type of pancreatitis you have.

Acute Pancreatitis

  • Upper abdominal pain
  • Fever
  • Rapid heart rate
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Tender abdomen
  • Pain in your back

 

Chronic Pancreatitis

  • Upper abdominal pain
  • Unintentional weight loss
  • Abdominal pain intensifies after eating
  • Smelly and oily stools

Is Pancreatitis painful?

Yes, you will experience upper abdominal or back pain if you have pancreatitis.

Who is at risk of Pancreatitis in Singapore?

Like most diseases, there are several factors that may increase your risk of pancreatitis, these are:

  • Excessive consumption of alcohol
  • Smoking 
  • Diabetes
  • Family history
  • Obesity 

How is Pancreatitis diagnosed?

If you are experiencing pancreatitis related symptoms, your gastroenterologist may conduct the following tests to make a diagnosis:

  • Endoscopic ultrasound: used to identify any abnormalities within or near the pancreas.
  • Computed tomography scans (CT-scans): non-invasive diagnostic imaging tool that uses a combination of x-rays and computer technology to produce cross-sectional, horizontal, or axial images of the body.
  • Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI): allows for a better, all rounded view of your pancreas and surrounding organs.
  • Blood tests: to check for elevated levels of pancreatic enzymes and others (e.g., kidney function, liver enzymes, etc.)
  • Stool test: used if chronic pancreatitis is suspected

What are the treatment options for Pancreatitis in Singapore?

Some of the treatment options are dependent on the type of pancreatitis you have, however, there are some that are more general and can be used for both acute and chronic pancreatitis.

General treatment options are:

  • Medication: pain medication and antibiotics to help treat infection and pain.
  • Low-fat diet: since the pancreas is require for the digestion of fat, consuming a low-fat diet will allow your pancreas to heal by not over-stimulating it.

Treatment for Acute Pancreatitis:

  • Surgery: involves the removal of your gallbladder if gallbladder/bile duct stones are the cause of your pancreatitis.
  • Endoscopic retrograde cholangio-pancreatography (ERCP): combination of x-rays and an upper gastrointestinal tract endoscopy to identify or treat problems with the pancreatic or bile ducts.

Treatment for Chronic Pancreatitis:

  • Longitudinal pancreaticojejunostomy: used to clear blocked pancreatic duct.
  • Pancreaticoduodenectomy: parts of the pancreas, duodenum (upper part of the small intestine), part of the common bile duct, gallbladder, and possibly part of the stomach is removed.
  • Total pancreatectomy and auto islet transplantation: the complete pancreas is removed and islet cells that are responsible for the production of insulin are transplanted onto the liver.

Frequently asked questions

Can pancreatitis be cured?
Acute pancreatitis can be cured depending on the cause. For example, if the cause of acute pancreatitis is due to gallstones, pancreatitis can be cured by removing the gallstones. However, there is no cure for chronic pancreatitis.
How do I prevent pancreatitis?
Maintain a healthy lifestyle and try to avoid alcohol and smoking.

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    6A Napier Road, Annexe Block #05-35C Gleneagles Hospital
    Singapore 258500
    820 Thomson Road, #06-07 Mount Alvernia Medical Centre A Singapore 574623

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