Acute pancreatitis is a condition characterized by abrupt inflammation of the pancreas characterized by swelling and at times even destruction of pancreatic tissue. The most common causes of acute pancreatitis are gallstones and excessive alcohol consumption. Other causes include smoking, high triglyceride levels, high calcium levels, certain medications, abdominal trauma, viral infections, structural anatomic anomalies and genetic abnormalities.
Chronic pancreatitis occurs when there is irreversible scar tissue that forms in the pancreas as a result of ongoing inflammation. Chronic pancreatitis can lead to impaired digestion of food and diabetes mellitus. The most common causes of chronic pancreatitis are excessive consumption of alcohol, heavy smoking, and recurrent episodes of acute pancreatitis for any number of reasons including genetic mutations. However, the cause is unknown in nearly a third of patients, despite an extensive evaluation.