Pancreatitis is inflammation of the pancreas.

The most common causes of pancreatitis, accounting for more than 85% of all cases of pancreatitis are chronic alcoholism and gallstones. Other causes include trauma (such as from a steering wheel in an automobile accident), infection (the mumps virus being the most common), drugs (lasix and thiazides are the most common ones) and cancer.

When a pancreatic duct gets blocked for whatever reason, the pancreatic juices which contain digestive enzymes (and specifically, trypsinogen) will not drain properly into the duodenum. A build up of this stuff causes auto-digestion (as trypsinogen breaks down into the active trypsin), which causes the chronic pain of pancreatitis.

It is said that pancreatitis (acute pancreatitis or chronic pancreatitis) accounts for 3% of all abdominal pain in the U.K. It can be a serious condition, with very significant mortality figures if it is severe.

In the management of acute pancreatitis, the treatment is to stop feeding the patient and make him/her NBM (nil by mouth), giving intravenous fluids instead to prevent dehydration. As the pancreas is stimulated to secrete enzymes by the presence of food in the stomach, having no food pass through the system allows the pancreas to rest.

Important biochemical markers for pancreatitis are serum amylase and lipase levels. Amylase and lipase levels can rise to more than a hundred times normal levels in cases of acute pancreatitis.