The pancreas plays a much needed and important role in the human body. When many people think of eating and drinking they think that their stomachs do all of the work. However, the majority of digestion actually comes from the digestive juice that is secreted by the pancreas into the small intestine. This juice contains enzymes and bicarbonate that help to break down the heavier fats and carbohydrates that are consumed. This is important to know because it helps in understanding the dangers of pancreatitis and also what the body goes through when experiencing pancreatitis.
Pancreatitis is, quite simply, the swelling of the pancreas. This swelling reduces the flow of the digestive juice that is secreted by the pancreas into the small intestine. When the flow is reduced it can create an overload of the enzymes that are used to break down food and can cause the pancreas to digest itself. This can lead to more problems in the body if it cannot be remedied quickly and could even lead to death.
There are two forms of pancreatitis, chronic (recurring/never really goes away completely) and acute (one or more instance that doesn't last too long). Acute pancreatitis, though it sounds more dangerous, is actually a milder version of pancreatitis than chronic pancreatitis. Most instances are very mild with a notice in the pain beginning soon after the damage to the pancreas occurs and it usually resolves itself in a few hours. However, about twenty percent of the cases seen with acute pancreatitis can be severe and, in extremely rare cases, the swelling can persist for too long and cause severe damage or even death.