Wondering Why?

Why Do Gallstones Cause Pancreatitis?

Pancreatitis is a pathologic condition that involves the inflammation of the pancreas. Pancreatitis can be characterized by abdominal pain that radiates to the back, fever, swollen and tender abdomen, increased heart rate, nausea and vomiting. Some of the causes of pancreatitis are gallstones, heavy alcohol use, trauma, infections and adverse effects of certain medications.

Pancreatitis can also be caused by certain types of food that cause allergic reactions, leading to impairment of the gallbladder. This subsequently leads to incompetent flow of bile through the billiary duct.

In this case we look at gallstone as the cause of pancreatitis.

Gallstone Pancreatitis;

First, gallstones are caused by the blocking of the flow of bile into the intestines. This blockage may be caused when the bile stored in gallbladder become thick and concentrated. This may then crystallize and form the gallstones. The crystallization occurs when the bile salts react with calcium ions and cholesterol to form crystallized cholesterol deposits.

Gallstone pancreatitis then occurs when the gallstones block the pancreas inhibiting the flow of the pancreatic enzymes to the intestines for digestion. When the pancreatic enzymes are inhibited from flowing to the intestine, they accumulate in the pancreas, leading to the irritation of the pancreas. This subsequently leads to the inflammation of the pancreas thus resulting in pancreatitis.

The gallstones can hence cause pancreatitis in two major ways;

The first way is when the pancreatic enzymes have been forcefully refluxed into the pancreas by blockage of the pancreatic duct by the gallstones, leading to the irritation and consequent inflammation of the pancreas.

The second way is when the sphincter of oddi is incompetent. This can also be due to destruction by the gallstones. This sphincter of oddi is the passage way for the bile into the billiary duct. In the unfortunate occurrence that it becomes incompetent, it blocks flow of duodenal digestive juices into the pancreatic duct causing reflux into the pancreas. This results in irritation and subsequent inflammation, hence pancreatitis.

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