Pancreatic insufficiency: What causes it?

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Pancreatic insufficiency: What causes it?


What causes pancreatic insufficiency?



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
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