Common Pancreas Disorders
Hemochromatosis | Gastro Liver Care

Symptoms of pancreas malfunction

The pancreas plays more than one role. It makes the insulin needed to regulate glucose. It also produces a large share of the enzymes you need to digest food and absorb nutrients. When your pancreas isn’t functioning well, you’re likely to have at least some of the following symptoms:

These symptoms could be due to EPI, pancreatitis, or several other disorders of the pancreas.

Exocrine pancreatic insufficiency

EPI is a condition in which you’re deficient in pancreatic enzymes to the point where you’re malnourished. One symptom of EPI is steatorrhea, which is excess fat in the stools. Signs of this are stools that are:

  • pale in color
  • foul-smelling
  • difficult to flush

You may also experience oily leakage from the anus. Other symptoms may include:

  • abdominal bloating or cramping
  • gas
  • diarrhea or fecal incontinence
  • weight loss
  • malnutrition

Causes of EPI include:

  • pancreatitis
  • cysts or benign tumors of the pancreas
  • blockage or narrowing of the pancreatic or biliary duct
  • pancreatic cancer
  • side effects of pancreatic surgery
  • cystic fibrosis
  • diabetes

Treatment may include:

  • PERT
  • a low-fat diet, unless you have cystic fibrosis
  • nutritional supplements, especially fat-soluble vitamins A, D, E, and K
  • avoiding alcohol and smoking

Cystic fibrosis

Cystic fibrosis is a genetic condition that affects the lungs and digestive tract, including the pancreas. It’s usually diagnosed within the first few years of life. Symptoms include:

  • frequent respiratory infections
  • coughing
  • abdominal distension
  • gas
  • foul stools
  • salty-tasting skin
  • inability to gain weight
  • developmental delays
  • malnutrition due to EPI

Treatment includes:

  • PERT
  • a variety of medications to address respiratory issues
  • special breathing exercises and chest physiotherapy
  • dietary management and nutritional supplementation
  • lung transplant

When to see a doctor

It’s not necessary to see your doctor if you have minor gas and bloating on occasion. But if you have frequent trouble with digestion, there are a number of conditions that could be causing these symptoms. It’s important to find the cause so you can get on the right therapy.

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