What Conditions Cause Pancreatic Pain?

Disorders such as acute, chronic and hereditary pancreatitis cause pancreatic or abdominal pain, according to the National Pancreas Foundation. Symptoms of pancreatitis include nausea, vomiting, diarrhea and pain in the abdominal region. Testing is often difficult due to the position of the pancreas, which is located in the abdominals near the spine. Doctors perform blood tests, CT scans, MRIs and ultrasounds to determine if pain is due to the pancreas and to evaluate the overall structure of the organ.

An attack of acute pancreatitis comes on suddenly and causes inflammation, states the National Pancreas Foundation. Gallstones are the most common cause of acute pancreatitis, although other possible causes include trauma, infections, hormonal abnormalities, medications and alcohol use. In some cases the cause is unknown. Patients generally recover from the condition; however, as of 2015, medications are not effective forms of treatment.

Chronic pancreatitis occurs due to progressive disease and destruction to the organ, explains the National Pancreas Foundation. Excessive alcohol consumption most commonly causes chronic pancreatitis, and patients must refrain from drinking to treat the condition effectively. Pain management, food digestion and nutritional support comprise the treatment plan. Chronic pancreatitis exhibits similar symptoms to acute pancreatitis, making it hard to diagnose accurately. Malnutrition, weight loss and diabetes may develop in advanced stages.

Hereditary pancreatitis is generally associated with abnormalities of the pancreas or intestine that pass through genetics, according to the National Pancreas Foundation. Patients may have acute attacks followed by a progression to chronic pancreatitis. Genetic testing is helpful in determining an individual's risk for developing the condition, which is most commonly due to cystic fibrosis.