People with acute pancreatitis are usually admitted to hospital — even to intensive care if it’s severe. They are not allowed to eat and drink and are given fluids through a vein by a drip. They are given painkillers, and may be given antibiotics to prevent infection. In most people, the acute pancreatitis then starts to improve in about a week. If they still have trouble eating, they may need to be fed through a feeding tube.
People with chronic pancreatitis are usually not admitted to hospital unless the pain is severe, or unless there are complications. Painkillers are prescribed. They need to take care to avoid triggering more pain, which means having low-fat meals and cutting out alcohol. People with chronic pancreatitis may also need to take enzymes to help them digest food, and supplements to make up for the vitamins and minerals not being absorbed. Glucose levels will be monitored and you may need insulin if you have developed diabetes.
A range of other treatments may be recommended to fix the underlying cause of the pancreatitis. They include:
- surgery to find and remove any cause of blockage to tubes from the pancreas, such as gallstones
- surgery to remove the gallbladder or damaged areas of the pancreas
- taking supplements to improve the digestion of food
Preventing another attack
There are ways to prevent pancreatitis from occurring again.
You will probably be asked to cut down on fatty foods and to eat a healthy diet. This is especially important if the cause was gallstones and your gallbladder has not been removed. Drinking plenty of clear fluid, like water, will also help prevent another attack.
If the cause of the pancreatitis was alcohol, you will need to stop drinking completely. You should also quit smoking, as this is another cause of pancreatitis.
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Last reviewed: September 2020