The pancreas is located behind the stomach. It is responsible for producing digestion-aiding enzymes as well as insulin. Pancreatic pseudocysts are filled with fluid and reside in the abdomen. They are usually caused by abdominal trauma or acute pancreatitis, which is an unexpected swelling of the abdomen.
Symptoms of a pancreatic pseudocyst include abdominal bloating, trouble with digestion, and constant abdominal pain. These symptoms can present themselves in as little as a few days after a pancreatic pseudocyst develops, or as much as a few months later.
To diagnose a pancreatic pseudocyst, your doctor will perform a full physical exam, which will include feeling your abdomen to check for abnormalities. Additional tests may be ordered to accurately identify the pancreatic pseudocyst, including an abdominal ultrasound, an abdominal CT scan, or an abdominal MRI.
Most pancreatic pseudocysts present no symptoms and go away on their own. Surgical treatment is only necessary for pancreatic pseudocysts lasting over a month and/or with a diameter of more than 5 centimeters. Treatment options include needle drainage guided by either an endoscope or a CT scan, or surgical drainage, which can be performed laparoscopically.
If left untreated, a pancreatic pseudocyst can place extra pressure on nearby organs, or it may rupture, causing excessive bleeding. Call 911 immediately if you experience signs of a ruptured pancreatic pseudocyst, which includes rapid heartbeat, fainting, and severe abdominal pain. Only a qualified medical professional can determine if a pancreatic pseudocyst is the cause of your symptoms after a full review of your individual condition.
Pancreatitis is an inflammation of the pancreas, the long, flat gland between the small intestine and spleen that secretes enzymes to digest food and secretes insulin and glucagon. When inflamed, the enzymes become active and attack the pancreas. Pancreatitis can be an acute or chronic condition that may cause mild to severe symptoms, both of which can usually be treated.
Pancreatitis is believed to be caused by a combination of environmental and genetic factors, but heavy alcohol consumption is a leading cause of both acute and chronic cases. Gallstones can also cause acute pancreatitis by blocking the pancreatic duct.
Symptoms of pancreatitis can vary depending on the type and severity of the condition, but common symptoms include:
- Pain in the upper abdomen
- Chest pain
- Nausea and vomiting
- Rapid pulse
Pancreatitis can be diagnosed through a combination of blood test, stool test, pancreatic function test and imaging techniques. Treatment for this condition is important because if untreated, it can lead to infection, respiratory failure, diabetes and shock. The type of treatment depends on whether the condition is acute or chronic and aims to relieve symptoms and eliminate possible causes. Common treatment options include hospitalization, alcohol abuse treatment, pain relief, enzyme therapy and diet changes. Avoiding alcohol, smoking and foods high in fat can help reduce your risk of pancreatitis.