Chronic pancreatitis is a long term inflammatory disease of the pancreas. It can occur after an attack of acute pancreatitis or can present on its own. It is more common in patients who drink too much alcohol but can occur in those who don't drink alcohol. Chronic pancreatitis typically causes severe abdominal pain which for some patients can be constant. As the pancreas gland becomes replaced by increasing amounts of scar tissue; other problems can result such as difficulty digesting food (Pancreatic Exocrine Insufficiency) and diabetes.
It can be a difficult condition to treat and most patients will need to make life-style changes such as giving up alcohol and smoking. Patient often require help from various healthcare professionals such as dieticians, pain specialists, substance misuse counsellors and specialist diabetic teams. Occasionally, patients benefit from surgical procedures to treat chronic pancreatitis. Surgery will only be considered in patients who are no longer drinking alcohol and/or smoking if their surgeon thinks it will help.
Chronic pancreatitis is a risk factor for developing pancreatic cancer and this risk is increased by 2-3 times than that of the general population.