Pancreatitis is caused by alcoholism, gallstones, hypertriglyceridemia, hypercalcemia and cystic fibrosis, notes Mayo Clinic. Other causes include a family history of pancreatitis, cigarette smoking, infections and endoscopic retrograde cholangiopancreatography. During pancreatitis, pancreatic enzymes activate while they are still in the pancreas during digestion. Essentially, the enzymes attack the pancreatic tissue resulting in inflammation.
According to the American Gastroenterological Association, chronic pancreatitis can eventually lead to exocrine pancreatic failure. The body experiences difficulty in digesting dietary fat and protein resulting in oily stools and weight loss. Endocrine failure is also a possible consequence of chronic pancreatitis and may result in diabetes. Symptoms of chronic pancreatitis include nausea and vomiting, fever, weight loss and pain in the center of the upper abdomen. Greasy and smelly stools are also a sign of pancreatitis.
Treatments for pancreatitis vary and hospitalization is generally required. According to Mayo Clinic, treatments include fasting to help the pancreas recover, pain relief medications and administration of IV fluids to alleviate dehydration from vomiting. Gallbladder or pancreas surgery may be performed if gallstones or diseased pancreatic tissue is the cause of the pain. Taking pancreatic enzyme supplements and making changes to the individual's diet while creating a pain management plan are also viable treatments for chronic pancreatitis.