Researchers at Lund University have uncovered that the activation of neutrophils – a type of white blood cells – leads to inflammation in the pancreas which results in the development of acute pancreatitis.
Professor Henrik Thorlacius said, “Our studies show that neutrophils can form web-like structures of DNA and proteins that are harmful to the pancreas. These structures are usually beneficial – they are one of the body’s defense mechanisms against infection – but when it comes to pancreatitis, they are activated by something that can be compared to a false alarm, and instead they become destructive.”
Inflammation is typically a response to an infection, but in the case of pancreatitis the inflammation is not a response to infection and thus a false alarm is set which leads to the inflammation.
Neutrophil webs have been studied in other areas as well, including inflammation of the liver, lungs, rheumatic disease (lupus) and other inflammatory diseases.
Treatment for pancreatitis works to support the lungs, heart and other organs which may fail because of the disease, but there is no set treatment which targets pancreatitis at the moment.
Researchers are hopeful that by better understanding neutrophils successful treatment for acute pancreatitis can be made.
Symptoms of acute pancreatitis
Acute pancreatitis is when swelling and inflammation occurs on the pancreas. The pancreas produces enzymes which help the body to digest food. The pancreas is also responsible for producing insulin and glucagon.
Symptoms of acute pancreatitis include:
- Pain in the upper left side or middle of abdomen
- Pain may worsen post-meal
- Pain may be consistent and last several days
- Pain may worsen when lying on back
- Pain may move and be felt in the shoulder blade
- Clay-colored stools
- Swollen abdomen
- Tenderness when touching abdomen
Risk factors that may trigger acute pancreatitis
Causes of acute pancreatitis include autoimmune problems, damage to ducts or pancreas during surgery, high blood levels of fat and injury to the pancreas from injury. Additional causes of acute pancreatitis and factors which can worsen it are:
- Abdominal surgery
- Certain medications
- Cigarette smoking
- Cystic fibrosis
- Endoscopic retrograde cholangiopancreatography (ERCP)
- Family history of pancreatitis
- High calcium levels in the blood (hypercalcemia), caused by hyperparathyroidism
- High triglyceride levels in the blood (hypertriglyceridemia)
- Injury to the abdomen
- Pancreatic cancer
Acute pancreatitis prevention and home remedies
Alcoholism and gallstones are the two main risk factors of acute pancreatitis. In order to prevent acute pancreatitis, it’s important to treat alcoholism and prevent gallstones.
Gallstones can be prevented by eating a healthy diet which includes fish, whole grains, and fruits and vegetables. Furthermore, you should avoid foods with high cholesterol, like meat pies, sausages and fatty cuts of meat, butter and lard, and cakes and biscuits. Being overweight can also put a person at greater risk of developing gallstones, so eating well and exercising are integral to proper and healthy weight management.
Alcohol consumption as well should be limited or avoided as it contributes to acute pancreatitis. If you suffer from alcoholism seek out treatment in order to recover from your illness. If you have been drinking for many years consider cutting back. Easy ways to minimize drinking is to avoid environments which promote drinking, reach out to friends and family for support, and take up hobbies and activities which distract your from drinking.
Complications of acute pancreatitis can result in breathing problems, infection, malnutrition, diabetes and kidney failure; it’s important you take the necessary steps in order to prevent acute pancreatitis.
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