If injury to the pancreas is long term, such as when a patient persists in drinking alcohol, a chronic form of pancreatitis may develop, bringing severe pain and reduced functioning of the pancreas that can give rise to type 2 diabetes, affect digestion, and cause weight loss. Damage to the pancreas from drinking alcohol may cause no symptoms for many years before the development of pain and altered digestion.
In the early stages of pancreatitis, doctors can’t always tell whether the condition is acute or chronic. Treatment with medications that contain pancreatic enzymes can help the body absorb foods and may control pain. Chronic pancreatitis is also a risk factor for pancreatic cancer.
This article first appeared in UC Berkeley Health After 50.