Exocrine Pancreatic Insufficiency, also known as pancreatic insufficiency or EPI, is a health condition in which the pancreas cannot produce the appropriate amount of enzymes and hormones. More specifically, the pancreas does not produce enough of a specific enzyme that is used to help digest food in the small intestine. If the body can’t properly break down the food it digests, your body won’t be able to get all the nutrients it needs from food sources, which can cause problems of its own. In today’s blog, we take a closer look at pancreatic insufficiency and its symptoms and treatment options.
The Causes and Symptoms of Pancreatic Insufficiency
Pancreatic insufficiency tends to develop after the pancreas has been damaged in some way. The most common cause is the result of damage that develops in the wake of chronic or recurrent pancreatic inflammation. Gallstone blockages, autoimmune diseases and heavy alcohol use can all lead to acute or chronic inflammation, which can eventually damage the pancreas and prevent it from producing the right amount of enzymes and hormones. Damage to the pancreas can also be the result of an infection, a previous surgical operation on the pancreas, and in rare instances, cancer.
Symptoms of pancreatic insufficiency include:
- Loss of appetite
- Feeling full without eating much or at all
- Abdominal pain
- Abdominal tenderness
- Weight loss
- Muscle cramps
Diagnosing and Treating Pancreatic Insufficiency
If you’re experiencing any of the above symptoms, especially if you’re also dealing with diabetes, you’ll want to head to an endocrine system specialist like Dr. Bhatti. He’ll begin by asking about your symptoms and collecting some information about your bowel habits. From there, he may use one of the following ways to diagnose your pancreatic insufficiency:
- Abdominal X-ray
- CT Scan
- Stool sample collection
- Blood test
- Endoscopic ultrasound
Treating pancreatic insufficiency depends on the extent of your condition, but when it’s caught early enough, non-operative treatments tend to produce successful results. Some common conservative treatment options include reducing your triglyceride levels through your diet and exercise regimen, reducing or eliminating alcohol use, taking certain medications and making other lifestyle improvements.
In the event that those treatments fail to produce results, more invasive techniques may be used. Pancreatic stimulation or the implantation of a stent can help improve enzyme flow out of the pancreas, and surgery may even be ordered to help address scarring that is causing chronic inflammation. In most instances, an endocrine specialist can help a patient calm their pancreatic inflammation and make the organ less insufficient.
If you’ve been diagnosed with pancreatic insufficiency or you believe you may be dealing with an endocrine system issue, reach out to Dr. Bhatti and the team at Bhatti GI Consultants today.