Chronic Pancreatitis



There is often no known cause. In some people, it may be due to:

  • Exposure to toxins, such as tobacco smoke, alcohol, and materials in some workplaces or the environment
  • Injury
  • A blockage, such as a tumor or gallstones
  • Problems with the immune system

Risk Factors

This problem is more common in men and people who are Black. Other things that may raise the risk are:

  • Alcohol use disorder
  • Tobacco use disorder



The main problem is mild to severe pain in the upper belly. It may also spread to the back. Pain may be all the time or it may come and go.

Other problems may be:

  • Pain that gets worse when eating or drinking
  • A swollen belly
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Weight loss
  • Loose, fatty, or oily stools


The doctor will ask about symptoms and health history. A physical exam will be done.

Blood tests will be done to look for certain enzymes that point to chronic pancreatitis.

Images may be taken of the belly. This can be done with:

A pancreatic function test may be done. This test measures how well the pancreas is making the enzymes needed to digest food.



The goal of treatment is to manage symptoms. This may be done with:

  • Supportive care, such as drinking extra fluids or getting fluids through an IV
  • Diet changes, such as a low fat diet or nutrition given through a tube that is passed through the nose and into the stomach
  • Lifestyle changes, such as not drinking alcohol and not smoking
  • Medicines, such as:
    • Pain relievers
    • Pancreatic enzymes to help with digestion
    • Corticosteroids to ease swelling

People who are not helped by these methods may need surgery. The type of surgery done depends on the reason for the pancreatitis. The kinds of surgeries done are:

  • Percutaneous catheter drainage to remove fluid from the pancreas
  • ERCP to open any blockages or drain cysts
  • Cholecystectomy to remove the gallbladder
  • Necrosectomy to remove dying or dead tissue from the pancreas


The risk of this problem may be lowered by:

  • Limiting alcohol
  • Not smoking

This content is reviewed regularly and is updated when new and relevant evidence is made available. This information is neither intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider prior to starting any new treatment or with questions regarding a medical condition.

Edits to original content made by Denver Health.