Pancreas Failure And Diabetes
If we suffer from pancreas failure and it shuts down completely, we can live without a pancreas, but diabetes is imminent since the production of insulin hormones ceases. Aside from trauma or another disease which adversely affects the pancreas, one of the leading causes of pancreas failure is pancreatitis.
The pancreas is a rather small organ, about 5 inches in length and located behind the stomach. The function of the pancreas is to assist in the process of digesting food. It does this by producing enzymes which break down carbohydrates, protein, and fat during the digestive process. The pancreas also helps regulate blood sugar levels through the production of glucagon and insulin.
The Pancreas And Diabetes - There is a symbiotic relationship between the pancreas and diabetes mellitus. Diabetes is a major disorder, actually a set of diseases, which can affect the functioning of the pancreas. In turn, a failure of the pancreas can bring on diabetes, since diabetes is caused by the body's inability to produce adequate amounts of insulin to control blood sugar levels.
Although the pancreas does not regenerate itself, we can live a normal life with only a part of one. This means that if someone suffers from a pancreas failure, a part of a healthy pancreas can be donate by another person and transplanted. The person having the pancreas failure will then have for all practical purposes a whole, healthy pancreas, even though it's only part of one. We can live without any pancreas at all, but must have regular injections of insulin to do so.
Causes Of Pancreatitis - As mentioned above, one of the leading causes of pancreas failure is pancreatitis. That is not to say that pancreatitis always leads to pancreas failure, only that the possibility exists. Pancreatitis is a situation in which the pancreas becomes injured and the digestive enzymes it produces, which are very powerful, begin to digest the pancreas itself. The most common cause behind this is many years of alcohol abuse, although gallstones are also a leading cause. Gallstones, which can block the pancreatic duct and trap digestive juices inside the pancreas, are most common in women, especially women over 50. Alcohol abuse does not favor one gender over another.
The digestion of tissue by the pancreas enzymes do not necessarily affect only the pancreas, but can affect nearby organs as well. The most common symptom of pancreatitis is pain, although not everyone experiences it. When pain is first felt, deterioration of the pancreas is usually well underway. The pain is often severe. It may come on suddenly or develop slowly, and is normally felt in the upper middle or upper left portion of the abdomen, and may radiate through the back.
Lessening Of Pain Is Not Good - An unusual situation a person suffering from pancreatitis may encounter is as the condition worsens, the pain experienced, if any, often lessens or goes away. This is not a good sign, as it may mean that the pancreas has ceased functioning, leading to a potentially life threatening situation. When the pancreas ceases to function, or functions poorly, diabetes will result due to the loss of insulin production, and weight loss will result from the inability of the digestive system to completely digest food.
Pancreatitis Treatment - Pancreatitis will often go away on its own, and treatment is directed mainly at relieving the symptoms, such as pain and nausea. Blood transfusions may be given to support other bodily functions while the pancreas is in the process of healing, and antibiotics may be prescribed to treat the pancreatitis. Nutritional supplements may also be given to make up for any lessening of digestive functions. Surgery sometimes is necessary to remove affected portions of the pancreas and avoid total pancreas failure.