Travis Barker is best known for being the drummer in Blink-182 and, more recently, the husband of Kourtney Kardashian. Last week he was rushed to Cedars-Sinai Medical Centre in Los Angeles with pancreatitis, which may have been a complication from an endoscopy the day before. But what is pancreatitis and what are the symptoms?
Where is the pancreas and what does it do?
Located beneath the ribs and tucked away behind the stomach is the pancreas. This is a long and flat organ that aids digestion and metabolism (how the body extracts energy from food). It assists digestion by secreting digestive juices that are made up of water, digestive enzymes (lipase, protease, and amylase), and sodium bicarbonate (which neutralizes the stomach’s acidity).
The pancreas helps with metabolism by helping to control the amount of sugar in the blood. The organ produces hormones insulin and glucagon in the Islets of Langerhans (cells inside the pancreas). When there is too much sugar in the blood insulin decreases the levels, and when the blood sugar is too low, glucagon can help increase the levels.
What is pancreatitis?
There are two types of pancreatitis, acute and chronic. Acute pancreatitis is when over a short amount of time the pancreas becomes swollen. Many people can become better within a few weeks, but others develop some serious complications. In serious cases, acute pancreatitis can cause infection, cysts, tissue damage, and bleeding.
Acute pancreatitis involves a fever, sudden and severe pain in the center of the abdomen, nausea, pain in the upper part of the belly that goes to the back and eating certain foods (like those high in fat) can make the pain worse.
Chronic pancreatitis is a long-lasting inflammation and can occur after an episode of acute pancreatitis. This is when the organ is permanently damaged and could potentially stop working. For chronic pancreatitis, the symptoms are often similar to acute, along with the additional non-fun symptoms of diarrhea and weight loss, and constant pain in the upper stomach that can radiate to the back.
What causes pancreatitis?
Often acute pancreatitis is linked to too much alcohol, gallstones, infections, medications, surgery, trauma, autoimmune diseases, and metabolic disorders. Unfortunately, in 15 percent of cases, the causes are often unknown.
For severe acute pancreatitis, the person affected will often be sent to the hospital. They may be offered pain relief, intravenous fluids, and liquid foods.
What are the treatments for pancreatitis?
Acute pancreatitis is treated in a hospital, where the patient is monitored for any signs of complications and usually given fluids and oxygen if needed.
People that get acute pancreatitis will often get better within a week and leave hospital within a few days. Often acute pancreatitis can be confirmed by blood tests that looked at the digestive enzymes, physical examination, and medical history.
Overall, people still need to be cautious with this condition as complications can occur. Severe acute pancreatitis can develop complications that may need to be treated in an ICU, recovery takes much longer, and occasionally, it can be fatal.
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