Pancreatic insufficiency: What causes it?

content provided by mayoclinic.com

Pancreatic insufficiency: What causes it?

Question

What causes pancreatic insufficiency?

John
Missouri

Answer

Pancreatic insufficiency typically results from damage to the pancreas. This may be caused by a variety of conditions. The most common causes are cystic fibrosis in children and chronic inflammation of the pancreas (chronic pancreatitis) in adults. A less common cause of pancreatic insufficiency is pancreatic cancer.

Your pancreas makes and secretes digestive juices and enzymes that break down fats, carbohydrates and proteins in the foods you eat. If you have pancreatic insufficiency, your pancreas doesn't make or secrete enough of these enzymes for proper digestion to take place.

Severe pancreatic insufficiency impairs absorption of nutrients by the intestine. This can lead to deficiencies of essential nutrients. Also, decreased absorption of fat leads to increased fat in stools (steatorrhea), which results in weight loss, diarrhea, and pale, bulky, foul-smelling stools.

When possible, treatment of pancreatic insufficiency is directed at the underlying cause of pancreatic damage. Treatment may also include:

  • Supplemental pancreatic enzymes to improve digestion and absorption of nutrients
  • A low-fat diet to help control steatorrhea
  • Supplemental vitamins

Last Updated: 09/14/2006
© 1998-2014 Mayo Foundation for Medical Education and Research (MFMER). All rights reserved. A single copy of these materials may be reprinted for noncommercial personal use only. "Mayo," "Mayo Clinic," "MayoClinic.com," "Mayo Clinic Health Information," "Reliable information for a healthier life" and the triple-shield Mayo logo are trademarks of Mayo Foundation for Medical Education and Research.

Terms and conditions of use

 

Bookmark and Share   E-Mail Page   Printer Friendly Version