Pancreatitis is an inflammation of the pancreas that can cause severe abdominal (belly) pain and vomiting.
The pancreas produces enzymes that help digest food and hormones that help control blood sugar levels. In pancreatitis, tissues that make enzymes are damaged and fail to produce new enzymes.
Pancreatitis can be acute (develops suddenly and lasts for a few days) or chronic (develops gradually and keeps coming back). Most kids and teens with pancreatitis have the acute type.
Symptoms usually get better on their own within a few days. Treatment, if needed, might include switching to a low-fat diet with plenty of fluids (which is less likely to irritate the pancreas and can help it heal faster) and receiving intravenous (IV) fluids and pain medication.
Pancreatitis usually goes away quickly, with no permanent damage to the pancreas.
Symptoms of pancreatitis are similar to those of a stomach bug, so it's important to know the difference. Unlike with a stomach bug, acute pancreatitis will cause severe pain in the upper abdomen that makes standing or sitting upright difficult. After the first 2 days, the pain usually gets worse.
All A to Z dictionary entries are regularly reviewed by KidsHealth medical experts.
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