Causes of Pancreatitis
Hypertriglyceridemia (high triglycerides) is the third leading cause of pancreatitis. Some people with high triglycerides rarely get pancreatitis; others may experience recurring pancreatitis. Some doctors think that chylomicrons cause digestive enzymes to attack the pancreas resulting in injury to the pancreas. It is important for those with FCS to recognize the symptoms of pancreatitis.
Patients with FCS may experience recurrent attacks of pancreatitis, which can be extremely painful. Repeated attacks of pancreatitis may lead to long-term organ damage, insulin-dependent diabetes or even death.
- Pancreatitis is inflammation of the pancreas. It occurs when the digestive enzymes become activated while still in the pancreas.
- Patients with FCS may experience recurring episodes of pancreatitis that may cause lasting damage to the pancreas or chronic pancreatitis.
- Doctors do not know why some people with high triglycerides get pancreatitis while others never do.
Develop an Emergency Plan
Because patients with FCS often suffer from recurrent or chronic pancreatitis, developing an emergency communication plan with your doctor can help you manage during an attack.
Step 1: Organize all Medical Files
Prepare a care book for FCS, especially if you have an FCS diagnosis and a history of pancreatitis.
It should include:
- Your medical records
- A note from your doctor saying you have received an FCS diagnosis
- FCS facts and information—FCS is not well known so educate your doctors and nurses
- A list of current medications
"If your emergency room doctors know you have an FCS diagnosis, they may:
• Check your triglyceride levels
• Address your symptoms and start appropriate medical care"
Step 2: Test and Diagnosis
To diagnose pancreatitis, doctors order a blood or urine test looking for elevated levels of two digestive enzymes—amylase and lipase.
Communicate with Your Healthcare Professional: People with FCS can have normal levels of amylase and lipase, even when suffering from pancreatitis. Some doctors think this is because the triglyceride level is so high. It’s CRITICAL to communicate your FCS diagnosis to all healthcare providers during all encounters.
Emergency room doctors may ask questions to confirm a pancreatitis diagnosis, such as:
- What have you eaten lately?
- How much alcohol have you consumed in the past few days?
- What is your pain level?
- Have you vomited?
- Do you have pain in your abdomen and/or lower back?
- Have you had pancreatitis before?
Step 3: Treatment and Management
You may take several days to several weeks to recover from pancreatitis. Standard treatment often includes hospitalization and the following:
- IV fluids for hydration
- Pain medication
- No food until symptoms resolve
- Using other therapies to lower triglyceride levels, if indicated
Step 4: Follow-up Visit
Let your primary care physician know you had to go to the emergency room. If you are hospitalized for pancreatitis, be sure that all your doctors are aware so you receive the proper follow-up treatments.