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Alcoholic Pancreatitis - How Alcohol Affects The Pancreas

Long Term Effects of Alcohol Addiction

Though most people are aware that alcohol can negatively affect the liver and overall health, they may not be aware of its toxic relationship with the pancreas. In fact, many people are not even aware of what the pancreas does and how different substances can impact its function. In any case, pancreatitis is a condition that is more common among alcoholics. So, if you or someone you love consumes alcohol regularly or has become addicted to alcohol, you could be at greater risk of alcoholic pancreatitis.

However, this still begs a few important questions. First and foremost, what is alcoholic pancreatitis? What kind of effects does alcohol have on the pancreas? What are the symptoms of alcoholic pancreatitis? Finally, how can you get help if you or someone you know is suffering from the condition?

In today’s guide, we will answer all of these questions and more, but first, let’s look at the pancreas and what it actually does in the human body.

What Does the Pancreas Do?

The pancreas is an organ that plays an important role in the upper digestive system. It is located just below the breastbone and behind the stomach. The pancreas is an essential part of the digestive system, though modern medicine has technically made it possible to live without a pancreas. Unfortunately, people who get their pancreas removed often suffer from diabetes and have to use insulin shots to do the work that their pancreas would normally do. As a result, it is best to try to keep your pancreas in good condition for as long as possible.

Essentially, the pancreas converts the food we eat into fuel for our body’s cells to use. It helps with different parts of the digestion process and also maintains blood sugar levels. It does this by producing insulin, digestive juices, and various hormones that help with basic processes in the body. Though you can live without your pancreas, it will require you to make significant changes to your lifestyle, including your diet and medical needs. This can also apply in the event of alcoholic pancreatitis, which can reduce the ability of the pancreas to function properly.

What Is Alcoholic Pancreatitis?

Though there are various causes of pancreatitis, there are just two types of the condition: acute pancreatitis and chronic pancreatitis. The former refers to sudden occurrences of the condition that can last for a few weeks. If acute pancreatitis happens more than once, it can cause scarring in the pancreas that can lead to acute pancreatitis.

There is still no clear reason why alcohol causes pancreatitis. Researchers believe that heavy alcohol use affects the cells in the pancreas, but the exact way that alcohol does this is unknown. Nonetheless, alcohol is one of the most common causes of chronic pancreatitis.

When alcoholic pancreatitis occurs, it causes inflammation in the pancreas. In acute cases, this can cause pain and inflammation that can last for a few days or weeks. Typically, pancreatitis symptoms appear one or two days after heavy alcohol consumption. If someone has suffered from acute pancreatitis and continues to drink alcohol, they greatly increase the chances of developing chronic pancreatitis. This condition can last for months or years.

Alcohol’s Effect on The Pancreas

The primary effect that alcohol has on the pancreas is the production of toxic substances. Pancreas damage from alcohol usually happens with excessive drinking over a long period of time, while light or infrequent drinking is far less likely to cause alcohol-induced pancreatitis. It is also important to note that even heavy drinking does not always lead to pancreatitis, even if alcohol is affecting the organ.

Even small amounts of alcohol can cause some toxicity in the pancreas, but inflammation or pancreatitis from drinking is uncommon if the amount of drinking remains low. That said, pancreatitis caused by alcohol is especially dangerous because it can come on very quickly and without warning. By drinking heavily or on a regular basis, you could experience pancreas damage from alcohol without even realizing it.

Alcoholic Pancreatitis Symptoms

As previously mentioned, the symptoms of alcohol-induced pancreatitis can appear very suddenly. Some of these signs and symptoms include:

  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Infection
  • Hemorrhaging
  • Organ dysfunction
  • Fluid collection in the abdomen

In acute alcoholic pancreatitis patients, nausea and vomiting are the two most common symptoms. These usually go away after a few days, though it can take several weeks in more severe cases. However, the more severe symptoms, like hemorrhaging and organ dysfunction are more likely to occur with chronic alcoholic pancreatitis.

If you are experiencing any kind of alcohol-related pancreatitis, it is important to remember that there are stages to pancreatitis that can affect the type and severity of symptoms. During the early stages of pancreatitis, you are more likely to experience the following:

  • Pain in the upper abdomen
  • Tenderness in the upper abdomen
  • Fever
  • Rapid pulse
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting

As the condition progresses, these symptoms will become more severe and lead to decreased function of the pancreas. In some cases, alcoholic pancreatitis can cause pancreatic cancer, which can be both life-threatening and more difficult to treat. For this reason, it is best to consult a medical professional as early as possible if you believe you might have pancreatitis.

Many of the symptoms of pancreatic cancer are the same as those listed above, making it difficult to distinguish from pancreatitis. Pancreatic cancer is particularly difficult to diagnose, which is why many patients do not know they even have the disease until it is already in the late stages. Alcohol only fuels pancreatitis and the potential formation of tumors in the pancreas, speeding up the onset and development of pancreatic cancer.

How To Get Help For Alcohol Addiction

Since alcohol is one of the most common causes of pancreatitis, the condition is especially common in those suffering from alcohol addiction. Heavy and frequent alcohol consumption can increase the production of toxic fluids in the pancreas and lead to chronic inflammation. In addition to the uncomfortable and painful symptoms of the condition, it can also become life-threatening and lead to other health issues like diabetes.

Consequently, it is extremely important to seek out the support of an alcohol treatment program before it is too late. Alcohol addiction can cause a myriad of health issues and problems in your daily life. As a result, an alcohol rehab or detox program is often the best solution. A high-quality program is far more likely to help you kick the habit for good.

It is also important to remember that trying to quit alcohol “cold turkey” can be quite dangerous. Many alcoholics try to quit on their own, but they become overwhelmed by the symptoms of alcohol withdrawal. For this reason, it is best to enter an alcohol addiction treatment program and be under the care of trained professionals while you wean yourself off of alcohol.

Is your child, friend, coworker, parent, or spouse struggling with their alcohol addiction or alcoholic pancreatitis? Are you looking for alcohol abuse treatment options that target each patient’s specific needs? Finally, are you in need of a comprehensive alcohol rehab center that provides a wide range of effective solutions? If so, feel free to contact the experts at Prosperity Haven to learn more.


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