Last reviewed by Editorial Team on August 13th, 2018.
What is Pancreas pain?
This is pain that is felt in your pancreas and surrounding area. In many cases pancreas pain will happen before other symptoms and will continue to be felt during the entire time you have a pancreas disease. This type of pain is usually described as being slight and dull. In some cases of acute pancreatitis the pain will be so strong and severe you can barely tolerate it. You may also find yourself lying on your side in bed in a curled position or rolling from side to side, or squatting down. You may also find yourself touching the areas that are hurting such as your lower back on the left side or your upper abdomen in the central area. For people who have pancreatic cancer in the advance stage they may feel pain that ranges from dull to drill-like.
Pancreas Pain Location
Most cases of pancreas pain can be located about your belly button in the central upper part of your abdomen and a little below the pit of your stomach. It is like a little concavity just below your breastbone in the midline. Your pancreas is located behind your stomach. Because of where your pancreas is located the pain can overlap in your stomach area making the diagnosis complicated and the physician wondering if the pain is from your stomach or pancreas.
The symptoms people can find themselves experiencing with pancreas pain will depend on what is causing the pain. Some of these symptoms you might experience can include:
- You will usually find pancreas pain in your upper abdomen which will then start to radiate to other surrounding areas like your back.
- When you eat, your pancreas job is to secrete and then release their juice. If you have a pancreas that malfunctions the secretion of that juice is decreased. When this happens it can also have a ripple effect on your body that can lead to loss of appetite, deficiency of nutrients, weight loss, and malabsorption
- In some instances you could develop jaundice because the bile duct is blocked.
- If your pancreas is not functioning properly you could develop diabetes because there the secretion of insulin is decreased.
Pancreatitis is normally the most common cause of having pancreas pain. When a physician tells you that you have pancreatitis they are just telling you that you have inflammation of your pancreas. It could be chronic, which is an inflammation that does not resolve or heal fast or acute, which is an inflammation that happens suddenly and can be taken care of in a few days, pancreatitis. Other conditions that could cause pancreatitis that result in pancreas pain which can include:
- Excessive alcohol
- Disease of your gallbladder
- Using steroids excessively
- Digestive juices that could attack your pancreas which can cause many episodes of pancreas pain.
Another medical condition that can cause pancreas pain is pancreatic cancer.
There are no particular tests that can diagnosis pancreas pain but there are a variety of diagnostic tests that can be done to determine what is causing the pain because the pain can be considered a symptom of the underlying medical condition that is causing the pain.
Some of the diagnostic tests used to help find the underlying cause of pancreas pain can include:
- Blood tests to evaluate the function ability of your pancreas and to check the levels of lipase and pancreatic enzymes in your body.
- The secretin stimulation test can be used to determine the activity of your pancreas. Secretin is made by your small intestine and helps to stimulate your pancreas to release a fluid that aids in your digestion and helps to neutralizes your stomach acid.
- The fecal elastase test is another test used to test the function of your pancreas.
- The CT scan can be used to help access the health of your pancreas to see if you have any complications that can be associated with pancreatic disease like having an enclosed infection or abscess, having a collection of pancreatic enzymes and tissue fluid, or having fluid around your pancreas.
- Doing an abdominal ultrasound to help detect gallstones that could be blocking the fluid from flowing from your pancreas. This diagnostic test can also show if your pancreas has an abscess.
Before you can treat your pancreas pain you need to find out what is causing it so it can be treated. Once you treat the underlying cause your pancreas pain should start to subside. For example, if you are diagnosed with pancreatitis, treatment would involve treating what is causing your case of pancreatitis. If this is the underlying cause your physician will treat what is causing it. You should also make sure that you are following a strict diet designed for people who have been diagnosed with pancreatitis to keep the severity of pain under control. If the underlying cause is pancreatic cancer you may have to undergo surgery along with chemotherapy but unfortunately the prognosis is poor if you have pancreatic cancer.
The diet that you should follow should include eating high protein low-fat foods such as cottage cheese, seafood, lean meats, and eggs. If you have severe pancreas pain your physician may give you anti-spasmodic analgesic medication to help relieve the pain and spasms.