I am a 54 yr old woman who was first diagnosed with pancreatitis over 20 yrs ago. I had been drinking heavily for 10 yrs when I had first attack which hospitalized me for 9 days. The pain was without doubt the most excruciating I have ever felt. Yes, I was advised not to drink... and no, I ignored the advice and carried on. I must have had about 50 to 60 attacks over the years, at least half putting me back in hospital. I am now told that I have some calcification of the pancreas.Last year I had my gall bladder out, which contained one small stone and they told me it hadn't been the cause. I have had no attacks since this op (coincidence maybe) but after a particularly bad hangover last month, I have not touched a drop of alcohol, nor do intend to again. But has the damage already been done, and if I remain off alcohol, will I still die early? I know people get this through no problem of their own and I feel selfish for inflicting it on myself, but is there hope for me?
Unfortunately, pancreatic calcification is scar tissue that has formed due to inflammation. It can be caused by frequent bouts with pancreatitis, but is definitely worsened by alcohol consumption. Chronic pancreatitis can be caused by heredity, blockage of the pancreatic common duct by a stone or scar tissue, cystic fibrosis, alcohol consumption, high calcium levels in your blood, or high fat levels in your blood. If your pancreas is not producing enough pancreatic enzymes, your doctor can give you supplemental enzymes to aid in your digestion and absorption of nutrients. You might also be more prone to diabetes. My chronic pancreatitis was caused during my first pregnancy by high calcium levels in my blood. I formed kidney stones and gallstones during pregnancy and for 2 years after. Like you, once my gall bladder was removed, the pancreatitis resolved. You should be on a high carbohydrate, low fat diet.
RubyBlue, there is always hope, but you have to help the doctors by doing your part. There are medications and diet that can reduce the pancreatitis flare ups, thus reducing further damage from scarring. Once pancreatic calcification forms, it is permanent, unless the doctors find it necessary to surgically removed some of the scar tissue because of common duct blockage. You have the opportunity to be in control of your condition to decrease its progression. I hope you will take advantage of that opportunity. Best wishes for good health.
You have damage to the pancreas after so many attacks. Regarding what the doctor meant by calcification, this is also sometimes referred to as stones, which can cause no pain, be very painful until they pass or if enough build up they're unable to pass and that's a pretty serious situation, but your doctor would let you know if that were the case.
Some people live to be quite old, even after living unhealthy lifestyles and vice versa - there is some chance to how long you live; but it's absolutely going to help you live longer and with a greater overall quality of life if you try to be as healthy as you can - diet, exercise at your level, learning more about the pancreas is a good idea too so you can customize your new healthy lifestyle to be as "pancreas beneficial " as possible. Your doctor and/or a dietitian could help you create a plan.
Also, a therapist would be a helpful person to have to talk to without judgment (my husband had pancreatitis once and he can't drink due to medication but was still very judged - I can empathize for you there - we all make choices we may later regret, but if you're ill it's the worst time to feel judged, especially by those taking care of you).
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