Complications of Chronic Pancreatitis
The constant inflammation of the pancreas can lead to a number of complications which range from moderate to very severe:
Roughly 50% of patient with chronic pancreatitis develop diabetes later in their life (it is very uncommon for this to happen earlier than 20 years after than onset of the disease). This happens because the constant inflammation destroys beta-cells of the pancreas which are responsible for its endocrine function.
Any chronic disease, especially the one that causes the person to feel constant or recurring pain, can adversely affect his or her psychological and emotional health. Studies have shown that 10-15% of people with chronic pancreatitis also suffer from depression, anxiety, or stress.
Pseudocysts are another common complication of chronic pancreatitis. Pseudocyst is a sack of pancreatic juices that can develop on the surface of the pancreas. About 25% of people with chronic pancreatitis develop this complication. In most cases pseudocysts do not cause any discomfort to the patient and can only be detected using CT. However, they do sometimes cause dull abdominal pain, indigestion, and bloating. Small pseudocysts don’t need to be treated. Only those that are larger than 6 cm should be removed or drained, since larger cysts have a chance of breaking, causing peritonitis and internal bleeding. Pseudocysts are treated using fine-needle aspiration under the guidance of CT. Alternatively they can be removed using laparoscopy.
This complication is relatively rare and happens to about 1 or 2 people out of a hundred with chronic pancreatitis. Common symptoms of pancreatic cancer are the same as of the chronic pancreatitis itself and include weight loss, abdominal pain, and sometimes jaundice.