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The Major Symptoms for Each Type of Pancreatitis

abdominal pain

Story at-a-glance -

  • Abdominal pain is a distinguishing symptom present in both acute and chronic pancreatitis
  • Once the pain sets in, it usually lasts for several days if not treated right away

Abdominal pain is a distinguishing symptom present in both acute and chronic pancreatitis. When the inflammation is acute, the pain can begin gradually or develop immediately in the upper area of your abdomen. Once the pain sets in, it usually lasts for several days if not treated right away.1

In chronic pancreatitis, the abdominal pain is similar to acute pancreatitis, but it becomes persistent and may radiate to your back.2 In some cases, it may become so severe that it affects your day-to-day activities, and may require immediate medical attention.

The Similarities and Differences of Acute and Chronic Pancreatitis

The table below contains the common symptoms of chronic and acute pancreatitis:3,4

Acute Chronic
Upper abdominal pain that radiates into the back Constant abdominal pain that becomes disabling
Swollen and tender abdomen Nausea
Nausea Vomiting
Vomiting Weight loss
Fever Diarrhea
Increased heart rate Oily or fatty stools

Pale stools

Weight loss occurs because the intake of food exacerbates the abdominal pain further, thus forcing you to cut back on food consumption. Fatty stools may indicate that your pancreas isn't producing enough enzymes to digest the fat in your food. A diet high in cholesterol may also increase your risk of forming gall stones.

Your risk for chronic pancreatitis increases when you excessively drink alcohol regularly. If you have a relative who has had pancreatitis before, that may contribute to your risk as well.5

If You Live in a Tropical Country, You May Develop the Symptoms of Tropical Pancreatitis

Tropical pancreatitis is a special subtype of chronic pancreatitis that causes pancreatic inflammation depending on the country you live. As the name implies, this phenomenon is more prevalent in tropical countries.

The condition typically affects 10 to 15 out of 100,000 people in Western countries, but in Japan, the figure goes higher to 45 out of 100,000 people. Symptoms of this type are similar to chronic pancreatitis, but its defining indicators include diabetes mellitus and calcification of the pancreatic duct.6 A mutation in the SPINK1 gene may also increase your risk of getting tropical pancreatitis.

Autoimmune Pancreatitis May Exhibit Any of the Following Symptoms

As mentioned in the previous page, autoimmune pancreatitis occurs when your immune system targets your pancreas and possibly the other internal organs. The condition may not exhibit symptoms outright, but when they do show, they may be any of the following:7

Dark urine


Weakness or fatigue

Pale stools

Floating stools

Weight loss for no apparent reason

Abdominal pain

Visit Your Doctor Immediately If These Symptoms Appear

Should you experience any symptoms that can be noticed right away, such as sharp abdominal pain, jaundice and fatty stools, don't hesitate to visit your doctor right away. You may already be experiencing the early signs of pancreatitis. Consult your doctor immediately also if you experience a sudden loss in weight without doing any dietary or lifestyle changes. This may indicate that you have autoimmune pancreatitis.


Pancreatitis: Introduction

What Is Pancreatitis?

Pancreatitis Types

Pancreatitis Causes

Pancreatitis Symptoms

Pancreatitis Treatment

Pancreatitis Prevention

Pancreatitis Diet

Pancreatitis FAQ

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