Pharmaceutical Treatment for Pancreatitis
Pancreatitis is acute or chronic inflammation of the pancreas. It’s a painful and potentially severe condition that requires medical attention.
Pharmaceuticals are typically your provider’s first line of defense for pancreatitis, though severe cases may also require surgery to relieve symptoms or even to save your life. Other treatments, such as acupuncture or supplements, may also be recommended in addition to your medication regimen to offer pain relief and help prevent your pancreatitis from becoming chronic.
If you’re experiencing extremely bad pain or your other symptoms are severe, don’t wait—call 911 or get emergency medical attention right away.
Symptoms relieved by medication
Pancreatitis symptoms vary depending on whether it’s acute or chronic.
Acute symptoms include:
- upper abdominal pain that radiates to your back, especially after eating
- nausea and vomiting
- rapid pulse
- tenderness when touching your upper abdomen
Chronic pancreatitis symptoms include:
- all the symptoms of acute pancreatitis
- slow, steady weight loss
- oily, terrible-smelling diarrhea (steatorrhea)
Seeing a medical provider to diagnose or rule out pancreatitis is crucial, as its symptoms can be easily mistaken for:
- foodborne illness (food poisoning)
- menstrual cramps
- abdominal hernia
- irritable bowel syndrome (IBS)
- Crohn’s disease
- peptic ulcer
- kidney stones
- ulcerative colitis
How can medications treat pancreatitis?
As with any medical procedure, results of pancreatitis treatment will vary from patient to patient depending on age, genetics, general health, condition severity, follow-up care, and environmental factors. The following pharmaceutical treatments may present contraindications with one another, with holistic supplements, and/or with other medical conditions. Always consult your health care professional before deciding which treatment to try first.
- PERT (pancreatic enzyme replacement therapy): capsules contain pancreatin – a mixture of pancreatic enzymes, lipase, amylase and protease which break down fat, carbohydrates and proteins allowing nutrients to be absorbed; potential side effects include diarrhea, abdominal cramps, headache, constipation, bloating, or nausea
- synthetic human or porcine secretin: a peptide hormone inhibits the secretion of gastric acid from the parietal cells and stimulates the production of bicarbonate from the pancreatic ductal cells; stimulates bile production in the liver; can be synthesized in a lab from human or porcine (pig) sources; side effects include: facial flushing, rapid heartbeat; rarely, fainting, diarrhea, nausea, blood clots, fever, or hives
- NSAIDs (aspirin, ibuprofen, naproxen, celecoxib): nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs stop your body from producing prostaglandins – chemicals that promote inflammation, pain, and fever; chronic long term use has been linked to heart attacks, strokes, and gastrointestinal damage including pancreatitis; more people die each year from NSAIDs-related complications than from AIDS and cervical cancer
- opioid painkillers (morphine, oxycodone, pethidine, fentanyl): attach to proteins called opioid receptors on nerve cells, brain cells, spinal cord cells and gut cells to block pain messages sent to the brain through the spinal cord; overdose deaths from these highly addictive drugs have been declared a national epidemic
- PPIs (lansoprazole, omeprazole, pantoprazole, rabeprazole, esomeprazole): proton pump inhibitors block the action of proton pumps which secrete stomach acid; reduce pain and peptic or duodenal ulcers; can lose effectiveness over time; long-term use may increase risk of bone fractures and pancreatic cancer2
Reserve your appointment
Pancreatitis can be painful and distressing, especially because your pancreas is essential to your digestion and health. If you’re experiencing the symptoms of pancreatitis, speak with a medical provider today so the condition can be diagnosed or ruled out. However, if your symptoms are extremely painful or severe, don’t wait—call 911 or get emergency medical attention right away.
1. Iglesia-García, Daniel De La, et al. “Efficacy of Pancreatic Enzyme Replacement Therapy in Chronic Pancreatitis: Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis.” Gut, vol. 66, no. 8, 9 Dec. 2016, doi:10.1136/gutjnl-2016-312529.
2. Lai, Shih-Wei, et al. “Use of Proton Pump Inhibitors Correlates with Increased Risk of Pancreatic Cancer: A Case-Control Study in Taiwan.” Kuwait Medical Journal, vol. 46, no. 1, 2014. 44-48.
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