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Ask the Medical Expert Archives 2000-2004

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Pancreas and Pancreatitis
February 2002

Q. Could you tell me the difference between the conditions Pancreas Enzyme Deficiency and Chronic Pancreatitis?

A. The pancreas is a fairly large organ in the abdomen, near the stomach, with several vital functions. It produces pancreatic enzymes which aid in the digestion of food, and the hormones insulin and glucagon which regulate blood sugar levels. Since the brain has no ability to store sugar (glucose) for fuel, it needs constant glucose from the bloodstream. Fortunately we have precise control mechanisms to regulate blood glucose when all is working well. If the pancreas is damaged from disease or injury, serious problems arise. Loss of the ability to produce insulin results in diabetes, and loss of the digestive enzymes interferes with food digestion and processing. Chronic pancreatitis refers to chronic inflammation of the organ and can result in deficiencies of the pancreatic enzymes as described. Excess alcohol intake is a common cause of pancreatitis.




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