The pancreas is an essential organ of the human body, performing both digestive and endocrine functions. Located in the abdomen behind the stomach, the pancreas plays a major role in metabolism and in the digestion of fats and proteins. Unfortunately, the pancreas is prone to various diseases and disorders, which can have serious consequences for the health of an individual. In this article, we will discuss the function of the pancreas, its location in the body, and the various diseases and disorders that can affect it.
The pancreas performs two main functions - exocrine and endocrine. Exocrine functions involve the production of digestive enzymes, while endocrine functions involve the production of hormones. Let’s look at each of these functions in more detail and explore how they work together to keep the body functioning properly.
The pancreas contains exocrine glands that produce the following enzymes important for digestion:
In addition, the pancreas also produces juices that are released into ducts when food enters the stomach, culminating in the main pancreatic duct. By releasing pancreatic juices and bile into the duodenum, the body digests fats, carbohydrates, and proteins.
The main function of the endocrine system is to create and release hormones directly into the bloodstream. The two main pancreatic hormones are insulin and glucagon. Insulin is responsible for lowering blood sugar levels, and glucagon is responsible for raising blood sugar levels. A healthy blood sugar level is responsible for the proper functioning of the brain, liver, and kidneys.
The pancreas extends horizontally across the abdomen and behind the stomach. It is the largest part and the pancreas location in the body is on the right side of the abdomen. It is the narrowest part found to be on the left side of the abdomen next to the spleen.
When the pancreas is not functioning properly, many health problems can arise. These include pancreatitis, pancreatic cancer, pancreatic cysts, exocrine pancreatic insufficiency, pancreatic fluid collection, and several others. Let’s learn more about some of the most common pancreas disorders.
Pancreatitis is the inflammation and redness of the pancreas. Inflammation of the pancreas occurs when digestive enzymes or juices attack the organ. It can be a long-lasting chronic condition with acute attacks. Pancreatitis is mainly of three types, acute pancreatitis, chronic pancreatitis, and hereditary pancreatitis.
Acute pancreatitis is a pancreatic inflammation frequently accompanied by upper abdominal discomfort. Nausea, vomiting, diarrhoea, bloating, and fever are some signs of acute pancreatitis. One of the most common causes of acute pancreatitis is gallstones.
Other causes of pancreatitis are electrolyte abnormalities, elevated cholesterol levels, inherited diseases, injuries, chronic alcohol intake, drugs, infections, and hormone imbalances. In most cases, medications have failed to help, and as a result, the therapy mainly focuses on providing support to the patient. However, the good news is most people with acute pancreatitis recover entirely.
This condition can cause pancreatic damage. It is frequently seen among men and usually begins between 30 and 40 years of age. Because of similar symptoms, chronic pancreatitis may be misdiagnosed with acute pancreatitis at first.
The most common symptoms include upper abdominal discomfort and diarrhoea. Apart from this, chronic pancreatitis may also cause persistent abdominal and back pain, weight loss, diabetes, and mild jaundice. As the condition progresses, individuals may experience anaemia. Diabetes mellitus can occur if the pancreas is damaged in the last stages of this chronic disease.
The majority of therapy focuses on pain management in the pancreas pain location and nutritional assistance. Oral pancreatic enzyme supplements are also given. Patients who develop diabetes require insulin to manage their blood sugar levels. Alcohol consumption during this treatment is strictly prohibited.
Inherited pancreatitis causes multiple episodes of inflammation. The symptoms of this disease usually begin during childhood and may be persistent for a long time. Type 1 diabetes and pancreatic cancer are more likely to develop in adults with hereditary pancreatitis. A diagnosis is made based on a patient's symptoms, clinical history, and genetic results.
Pancreatic cancer is a condition detected by tumours that arise from pancreatic duct cells. Less than 5% of pancreatic tumours originate from the endocrine gland. The symptoms of pancreatic cancer include painless jaundice, yellowish skin discolouration, nausea, weight loss, and weakness.
Pancreatic cancer, if diagnosed early, can be treated with surgical excision. Unfortunately, early diagnosis is more of an exception than the norm.
Depending on the type of cancer, treatment will usually be a combination of surgery, chemotherapy, and radiation.
You can maintain a healthy pancreas by avoiding smoking, reducing alcohol consumption, eating a balanced diet, and adhering to a healthy lifestyle. Its location within the abdominal cavity helps to keep it out of sight, but its importance should not be overlooked. As with any organ, the pancreas can be affected by diseases and disorders that can lead to significant complications if left untreated. Fortunately, many treatments are available for those dealing with pancreatic issues ranging from lifestyle modifications to medications and surgery. Regular medical checkups can help identify potential problems before they become serious.