The pancreas is one of the organs in your body that plays an important part in digestion. It converts the food you consume into the fuel. The fuel is necessary for the proper functioning of the body cells. Therefore, the organ located in your abdomen has more power than you think. It can maintain the proper balance in your body. So, you can function normally and keep away several diseases with the well-working pancreas. One of the most important duties of the organ is to regulate blood sugar levels. The fluctuation in sugar levels can cause severe harm to the body. Therefore, it is significant to maintain the health of the organ. The disruption in the organ’s function can cause several unwanted side effects in your life. Therefore, read ahead to know more about the organ.
The other important organs make their presence known as you can touch or feel it. But, you cannot feel or touch pancreas. It does not mean that the pancreas is not important. The organ is located in your upper abdomen just behind the stomach region. Other organs like the liver, small intestine, and spleen surround the pancreas. Therefore, a part is nestled between the spine and stomach. While the other part is sandwiched in the first part of the small intestine (duodenum). The organ has a spongy texture. In normal human beings, it has a size of 6 to 10 inches in length. It looks like a fish or a flat pear extended in a horizontal manner. The organ is important for your digestive system.
The organ anatomy can shed light on its major functions. The organ has three major parts.
The pancreas has a wide part referred to as its head. The head is positioned at the center of the abdomen. Therefore, the exact location of the head is at the juncture of the head is at the place where the first part of small intestine meets your stomach. The position allows the pancreas to secrete the enzymes into the stomach content directly. So, when the stomach empties the food (partially digested) to the duodenum, it gets easy to accept the digestive enzymes from the pancreas.
The central region of the organ is referred to as its neck. It is also known as the body section of the organ.
As the name suggests, it is the thin end of the organ. The tail section of the organ always extends to your left side of the body.
Different major blood vessels surround the organ. They supply blood to the organs as well as the significant abdominal organs in your body. Do you need information about them? The major blood vessels surrounding pancreas are:
- Superior mesenteric vein
- Celiac Axis
- Superior mesenteric artery
- Portal vein
The pancreas has two important functions in your body. Read ahead to know more about the functions and its relevance in your body.
The pancreas has exocrine tissue in the majority. More than 95% of the organ produces pancreatic enzymes. It is necessary for your digestion. So, a healthy pancreas can produce the necessary chemicals in the appropriate quantities. The production of these chemicals at the right time aids during the digestion process. Therefore, it becomes easy to digest the food you eat. The pancreas has necessary glands associated with the exocrine function. So, it produces the much-needed enzymes to aid the digestion. Want to know in detail about the exocrine function? Then, read ahead.
Enzymes Associated With Digestion
The enzymes responsible for the digestion of the food groups are:
The enzyme called amylase secreted by the organ can help with the digestion of carbohydrates in your stomach.
Two enzymes work to break down the proteins you consume. The enzymes called chymotrypsin and trypsin aids in the digestion of the food group.
The fats are difficult to break down. So, the enzyme is known as lipase work productively to digest the fats in the stomach.
When you want food, it enters your stomach. Once the food reaches the stomach, the enzymes get released as pancreatic juice. The accumulation point of the pancreatic juices is the pancreatic duct. At the duodenum (the first portion of the small intestine), the common bile duct as well pancreatic duct joins. The joining point is referred to as ampulla of Vater. The bile duct is also necessary for digestion. It originates from your gallbladder and liver. It produces bile (a significant digestive juice). The combination of bile and pancreatic juices get released into the duodenum. So, it effectively helps your body digest the food. Irrespective of the food group you consume (carbohydrates, fats or proteins), the juices help with proper digestion.
It is another important function of the organ. Apart from the exocrine tissue, the organ consists of islets Langerhans. The endocrine cells in the organ look like the grapes. So, the cluster-like cells produce the much-needed hormone to regulate several important body functions. It plays an important role in the regulation of pancreatic secretions and the regulation of blood sugar. So, healthy pancreas plays a decisive role in determining if you can become diabetic or not.
Regulating Blood Sugar Levels
Now you may wonder how the endocrine function of the pancreas helps to regulate the blood sugar levels. As suggested earlier, the endocrine component of the organs encompasses islets cells. The islet cells (also known as islets of Langerhans) are responsible for the creation and releasing of important hormones. So, the two most significant hormones that can maintain a good balance in your body are:
Insulin is the key hormone that has the power to reduce the sugar levels in the blood.
The hormone when released into the bloodstream can increase the blood sugar levels.
It is important to maintain the blood sugar levels for the key functioning of the organs like the brain, kidneys, and liver.
Diseases Affecting The Pancreas
Several issues can affect the pancreas. The symptoms differ according to the underlying problem. You need to seek assistance from your doctor. Feeling or seeing the organ is not possible. So, it is difficult to find the issue affecting the organ. With sophisticated diagnostic tools, your doctor can find the problem with ease. Depending on the problem, your doctor may suggest ideal treatment.
It is the most common disease that affects the pancreas. It is the inflammation of the organ leading to distress. When the pancreatic enzymes build, it gets secreted into the duodenum. But, in some cases, it may not happen. Instead, the enzymes digest in the organ itself. Therefore, it results in the inflammation. You can experience the problem as acute pain or chronic ones. In the acute condition, the painful attacks last only for a few days. While the chronic condition builds gradually over a period of years.
Signs Of Pancreatitis
Acute and chronic pancreatitis may have common symptoms. But, in chronic cases, the signs may appear severe. You can also suffer weight loss and increased pain due to the issue. So, the common signs you need to monitor are:
- Upper abdominal pain that can spread to your back. The distress can become worse while eating food rich in fats.
- Your abdomen may feel swollen or tender
- Vomiting and/or Nausea
- Increased heart rate
Any condition can cause the signs. So, to know what the exact problem is, you need to see a doctor. Therefore, the doctor can perform some tests to diagnose the issue.
After you get affected by pancreatitis, you become more prone to a pancreatic pseudocyst. The issue can cause the formation of a fluid-filled cavity. It is known as a pseudocyst. Sometimes, the issue can resolve itself. But, surgical drainage requires in some cases to overcome the problem completely.
Signs Of Pancreas Pseudocyst
The common issues or problem you may experience with pancreas pseudocyst are:
- Loss of appetite
- Weight loss
- Jaundice (yellowing of eyes and skin)
- Fluid buildup in the abdominal cavity
- Tender mass formation in your abdomen
Islet Cell Tumor
The islet cell produces hormones necessary for the pancreatic function. But, at times, the hormone-producing cell can multiply abnormally. It results in the creation of a benign or cancerous tumor. The tumor has a tendency to produce an excess amount of hormones. Once the excess hormones release into the bloodstream, the balance in the body gets affected. The islet cell tumor accounts only five percent of the total pancreatic tumors. It is also known as the neuroendocrine tumors. The common islet cell tumors found in the human body are:
The common signs associated with the issue are weight loss, nausea, vomiting, and abdominal pain.
In some people, the pancreas may appear enlarged. It may not indicate a problem. A simple case of anatomic abnormality can result in the issue. But, some people suffer from some health issues leading to the enlarged pancreas. Therefore, they need proper treatment and care to overcome the issue.
The cancerous cells can affect the organ. It leads to pancreatic cancer. One of the common forms is pancreatic adenocarcinoma. The tumor formed due to the abnormality of the pancreatic duct cell lining can affect your health adversely. It comes under the classification of the exocrine tumor.
Common Problem Due To Damage To Pancreas
One of the most common problems that affect people due to the ineffective pancreas is diabetes. Two different types of diabetes can affect people due to the ineffectiveness of the pancreatic function. The first problem occurs when your immune system attacks the organ and kills its bets cells. So, it results in the inability of the organ to produce insulin. The result is Type 1 Diabetes.
Another type of diabetes can affect you when the excess muscle fat in your liver fails to process the glucose. It leads to an increase in the glucose levels in your bloodstream. So, the issue is referred to as Type 2 Diabetes. When you get affected by type 2 diabetes, the insulin produces excess insulin first. But, as time progresses, the pancreas cannot produce the insulin required for the body. So, it causes fluctuations in glucose levels.
Diagnostic Tests To Detect Pancreas Problems
The following test can help your doctor find the issues with your pancreas. The organ inflammation is detected using the following tests:
The blood test can determine diabetes. The blood glucose levels before and after you take food gets measured. If the levels are high, then your doctor takes steps to rectify the problem.
Pancreas Function Test
The pancreas function test can assess the number of digestive enzymes produced by the organ. It detects the right amounts of enzymes in the body. So, the doctor can determine the issue with the test results.
Glucose Tolerance Test
It is conducted by the doctor to measure the damage to the pancreas cells. The cells that make insulin may suffer issue leading to glucose intolerance in your body. So, the test can measure the issue with ease.
The sophisticated imaging tests like the ultrasound, MRI as well as the CT scans can help get the images of the organ. So, the doctor can check the problems of the organs with ease.
ERCP (Endoscopic Retrograde Cholangiopancreatography)
The test uses the endoscope and x-ray images to show the bile ducts and pancreatic ducts. So, the doctor can identify the problems associated with the ducts with ease. Using a long tube with a light at its end, your doctor can view the digestive organs. The endoscope is sent through your throat to the stomach and small intestine (upper end). Therefore, it can provide a detailed view of all the digestive organs and its problems.
It can detect the type of cells that can cause problems in the organ. So, the procedure removes a small tissue from the organ using the needle. The sample is sent to labs for testing and finding the problem precisely.
Treatment Options For Various Pancreas Problems
Your doctor decides the treatment depending on the cause of the problem. So, understanding the actual problem can provide a clear direction to the doctor. Depending on the problem, you can undergo the treatment. Getting treatment at the right time can avoid complications. Therefore, the various option available are:
Your doctor may first suggest medication to control the sugar levels. In most cases, the metformin hydrochloride tablets can do wonders. If the medicine fails, then your doctor suggests injecting insulin.
Treatment For Enlarged Pancreas
The doctor uses the diagnostic tools to determine the root cause of the enlarged pancreas. Finding the root cause can help find the solution. In some cases, the presence of gallstones can trigger the issue. So, the treatment involves removing the gallstones. Removal of the gallbladder can relieve the distress. Making lifestyle changes can also eliminate the issue. Therefore, you need to avoid the following:
- Quit smoking
- Avoid drinking alcoholic beverages
- Avoid eating food rich in fats
Treatment For Pancreatitis
Depending on the type of pancreatitis, the treatment option gets adopted. So, for acute pancreatitis, you need to stay in the hospital. The small stay at the hospital will ensure you get relief to the issue. The following treatment plan gets adopted:
- IV (Intravenous) fluids
- Pain Medication
- Antibiotics (in case of infection)
For chronic pancreatitis, the hospital stay is a must. The treatment plan is similar to acute pancreatitis. You also need to take good care at home to overcome the issue. For chronic pancreatitis, your doctor prescribes pancreatic enzymes. The external enzymes can aid the digestion process once you resume your normal diet.
Cancer in the pancreas is a serious issue. It is a fatal complication that requires immediate medical attention. Therefore, once cancer gets established with the biopsy, your doctor decides the treatment. The treatment methods may involve the following:
Treatment Option For Various Conditions Of Pancreas
The different issue may affect the pancreas leading to severe problems. In most of the cases, the doctor opts for the therapeutic ERCP method. It is the sophisticated technique involving the endoscope. Therefore, the doctor opts the technique for the following:
- Increase the enzyme secretion by enlarging the narrow duct opening
- Remove the bile or pancreatic duct stones triggering inflammation
- Place stent at the pancreatic or bile duct opening to prevent the narrowing
- Stretch or dilate the narrow duct opening of the bile or pancreas
- Drain the pus from the pseudocysts
In some extreme cases, the doctor suggests pancreatic surgery. your doctor mainly opts it for the removal of benign or malignant tumors from the organ. The surgery can pose several challenges to you. Even the most minimally invasive surgery requires recovery time. So, you need to spend some time in the hospital to undergo the procedure.
Whipple surgery is the most common type of surgery opted for the organ. It mostly removes the part of the organ where the tumor occurs. The most common portion of the organ with high-risk of getting affected by the tumor is the right-hand portion or the head of the organ.
Preventing Issues Related To Pancreas
You can prevent most of the issue affected the pancreas by following a healthy lifestyle. So, the pointer below can offer guidance. Keeping the organ hale and healthy prevents any unwanted diseases or other complications.
- Follow a balanced diet in your life. Eating more fruits and vegetable can ensure you get the essential nutrients to keep the organ healthy.
- Avoid excess fat from your diet. Consuming more than twenty grams of fats per day can put you at risk of getting diseases.
- Avoid alcohol as it can weaken your pancreas.
- Quit smoking as it can trigger several health issues.
- Drink plenty of water to keep your body hydrated. It will prevent many diseases.
The pancreas is the important gland in your body that secretes the necessary hormones. The hormones maintain the balance in your body. So, it helps you survive. Pancreatic problems can cause several health issues. Earlier, serious pancreatic problems resulted in fatal complication. But, with the development of sophisticated medical technologies, it possible to live with the issues. Even with the removal of the organ, you can survive. But, you need ample medical assistance. To avoid the issue, follow a healthy lifestyle. It improves your quality and quantity of life.
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