Normally, the structure of the Reference pancreas Opens New Window Reference Opens New Window and the pancreatic duct prevent digestive enzymes from damaging the pancreas. But certain conditions can develop that cause damage and pancreatitis.
Most attacks of pancreatitis are caused by Reference gallstones Opens New Window Reference Opens New Window that block the flow of pancreatic enzymes or by excessive amounts of alcohol. Sudden (acute) pancreatitis may happen after a drinking binge or after many episodes of heavy drinking.
Other causes of acute pancreatitis are:
- Infections, including Reference mumps Opens New Window.
- Reference Some medicines, including certain antibiotics, steroids, and blood pressure medicines.
- High Reference triglycerides Opens New Window.
Sometimes the cause is not known.
Excessive alcohol use is the major cause of ongoing pancreatitis (chronic pancreatitis).Reference 1 Many experts believe that other things—such as a high-fat diet or smoking—play a role in the disease.
Experts don't know how alcohol irritates the pancreas. Most believe that alcohol either causes enzymes to back up into the pancreas or changes the chemistry of the enzymes, causing them to inflame the pancreas.
|By:||Reference Healthwise Staff||Last Revised: Reference October 31, 2011|
|Medical Review:||Reference Kathleen Romito, MD - Family Medicine
Reference Peter J. Kahrilas, MD - Gastroenterology