Chronic pancreatitis is an inflammation of the pancreas that recurs or lasts for a long time, sometimes years, according to Mayo Clinic. The symptoms of this condition include pain in the upper abdomen, oily, foul-smelling stool and unintended weight loss.
The pain in the upper abdomen may also radiate to the back and may be so severe as to be disabling, according to WebMD. The patient may also experience a racing heart, fever, nausea and vomiting and a tender, swollen abdomen. The weight loss is the result of malabsorption, and the patient may develop diabetes if the pancreatitis damages the pancreatic cells that produce insulin.
Chronic pancreatitis often occurs after a patient has suffered an attack of acute pancreatitis, claims WebMD. A person can also develop chronic pancreatitis through heavy alcohol use. The person may not have symptoms for years before symptoms suddenly appear.
Other causes of chronic pancreatitis are gallstones and high triglyceride levels, states WebMD. Triglycerides are types of fats, according to the MedlinePlus. Chronic pancreatitis can have a genetic component and may be a complication of cystic fibrosis, adds WebMD. Some types of medications can also lead to the disorder; however, in about a quarter of the cases, the causes of chronic pancreatitis are not known.