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What is pancreatic atrophy?

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Pancreatic atrophy is the irreversible degeneration of the pancreas that is often associated with chronic pancreatitis. This condition involves the inflammation of the pancreas and a main cause for this is alcoholism, reports Merck Manuals. Some other causes are autoimmune disease, genetic mutations associated with cystic fibrosis and a family history of pancreatitis, states the National Pancreas Foundation.

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Some symptoms of this condition are upper abdominal pain, unexplained weight loss and stool that appears greasy. Oily stool that may be light in color is due to foods not being digested properly due to the decrease in enzymes associated with chronic pancreatitis, according to the Merck Manuals.

Treatment for chronic pancreatitis can involve managing the pain and addressing flare-ups. This includes prescribing pain medications and antioxidants. Another way to manage pain is a celiac plexus block that is an injection that blocks pain signals from the pancreas to the brain, explains the National Pancreas Foundation.

When these medications fail to give relief, some other options are different surgical options like pancreaticojejunostomy, Whipple procedure and total pancreatectomy with islet auto-transplantation. A pseudocyst can form at the top of the pancreas and this cyst can increase in size, leading to pain. A treatment for this problem can be compression or drainage of the cyst. People with chronic pancreatitis may be at a higher risk for pancreatic cancer, reports Merck Manuals.

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