Pancreatitis, a painful inflammation of the pancreas, is the most common cause of hospitalization for patients with a gastrointestinal disorder. The number of those afflicted with the condition has nearly doubled in the past two decades, with more than 40-60 new cases per 100,000 diagnosed each year.
Researchers say the cause for the increase in pancreatitis is likely linked to the growing problem of obesity, which is strongly related to gallstones, as well as increasing amounts of alcohol consumption.
Pancreatitis can be acute, meaning it occurs suddenly and usually resolves within days if treated in a timely manner, or chronic, a recurring problem that generally gets worse over time. The condition can be fatal, and can increase the risk of other serious health problems including organ damage and pancreatic cancer.
The most common cause of acute pancreatitis is the formation of gallstones, which can cause inflammation when they pass through the bile duct. Other causes include heavy use of alcohol, abdominal trauma, infection, tumors or genetic abnormalities.
Some medications have been linked to an increased risk of the painful condition, including some used to treat type 2 diabetes. These drugs include the brand names Januvia, Janumet, Byetta, and Victoza.
Many people who have taken these type 2 diabetes medications and were diagnosed with pancreatitis or pancreatic cancer have filed lawsuits against the makers of the drugs. Since these diabetes treatments hit the market, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has issued several warnings regarding increased risks of acute pancreatitis and pancreatic cancer with use of these drugs.