Ohio State offers expert care for conditions of the pancreas, including pancreatitis and pancreatic cysts.

The pancreas is a gland located behind the stomach, near the first section of the small intestine. It sends digestive juices into the small intestine that help break down food. The pancreas also releases hormones (such as insulin) that help control blood sugar levels. 

Pancreatic disorders encompass a range of diseases that frequently result in troublesome symptoms and heighten the risk for developing decreased functioning of the pancreas (resulting in diabetes and maldigestion) and, rarely, cancer. 

Ohio State has a specialized Pancreas Clinic to care for patients with pancreatic disorders. In addition, Ohio State offers superb care for those with diabetes and for pancreatic cancer. Patients often visit Ohio State for care related to these disorders:

Pancreatitis

Pancreatitis is inflammation of the pancreas. It can occur when digestive enzymes start digesting the pancreas itself. Pancreatitis can be acute (sudden and severe) or chronic (frequent, long lasting and slow to develop). Both forms are serious, can lead to complications and should be examined by a physician.

Acute pancreatitis may come on suddenly and usually goes away in a few days with treatment. It is the most common gastrointestinal reason for hospitalization in the United States. Treatment may require a short hospital stay for intravenous (IV) fluids, antibiotics and medicines to relieve pain. Gallstones are often the cause for this condition.

Common symptoms include:

  • Severe pain in the upper abdomen
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting

Chronic pancreatitis is an ongoing condition that usually gets worse over time and can lead to permanent damage. The most common cause is heavy alcohol use. Other causes include cystic fibrosis and other inherited disorders, high levels of calcium or fats in the blood, ongoing use of some medicines and autoimmune conditions.

Treatment may include a short hospital stay for intravenous fluids, medicines to relieve pain and nutritional support. Long-term treatment may include enzyme therapy, nutritional changes, quitting smoking and abstinence from alcohol.

Common symptoms include:

  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Weight loss
  • Oily stools

Learn more about pancreatitis.

Learn more about managing chronic pancreatitis. This information was presented in autumn 2014 at an Ohio State patient-oriented symposium held in partnership with the National Pancreas Foundation.

Pancreatic Cysts

Cysts, small pockets of fluid, can develop on or inside the pancreas. Most of these pancreatic cysts are not cancerous. They may be linked to excessive alcohol use, gallstones, abdominal injuries or other causes.

Although many cysts do not produce symptoms, some do. These symptoms may include:

  • Persistent abdominal pain that may spread to the back
  • A mass that can be felt in the upper abdomen
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting

Any growth on or in the pancreas should be examined by a specialist. The physician may recommend removing the cyst or monitoring it over time. 

Pancreatic Cancer Risk

Pancreatic cancer is a relatively rare form of cancer. About 40,000 new diagnoses are made in the United States each year. Unfortunately, pancreatic cancer is particularly life-threatening, as it is the fourth most common cause of death from cancer.

Learn more about how Ohio State experts at The James detect and treat pancreatic cancer

Diabetes

Ohio State is nationally recognized for care of patients with diabetes, a disease of the pancreas.

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