What is pancreatitis, the condition Travis Barker was reportedly hospitalised with?

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·Lifestyle Writer, Yahoo Life UK
·6-min read
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Watch: Travis Barker in hospital with pancreatitis

Travis Barker was rushed to hospital with pancreatitis on Tuesday, thought to be triggered by a recent colonoscopy (a test to check inside your bowels), it has been reported.

The Blink-182 star's wife Kourtney Kardashian has been by his side while he's received care at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in LA, according to TMZ.

But what exactly is pancreatitis and what painful symptoms might Barker be suffering from?

Man with pancreatitis pain. (Getty Images)
How much do you know about pancreatitis, the condition that hospitalised Travis Barker? (Getty images)

What is pancreatitis?

Acute pancreatitis is where the pancreas – a small organ found behind the stomach, that helps with digestion – becomes swollen over a short period of time.

If you do suffer from acute pancreatitis, the good news is that it's likely you'll start to feel better within a week and experience no further problems, according to the NHS.

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However, if you have severe acute pancreatitis, it's possible you might develop more serious complications.

'Acute' pancreatitis is also different to 'chronic' pancreatitis, which is where the pancreas has become permanently damaged from swelling over many years, causing it stop working properly.

Chronic pancreatitis can affect people of any age, but is more common in men. Most people who develop this ongoing condition will have already experienced one or more attacks of acute pancreatitis.

Acute pancreatitis symptoms

Woman with pancreatitis symptoms. (Getty Images)
If you experience symptoms of pancreatitis seek medical help. (Getty Images)

The most common symptoms of the condition, as listed by the NHS are:

  • suddenly getting severe pain in the centre of your abdomen

  • feeling or being sick

  • a high temperature of 38C or more

Acute pancreatitis causes

This shorter variation of the condition is often linked to gallstones – small stones, usually made of cholesterol, that form in the gallbladder – or drinking too much alcohol.

By reducing how much alcohol you drink or changing your diet to make gallstones less likely, you can reduce your chances of developing acute pancreatitis, the health service advises.

Less common causes include high blood fat levels (known as hypertriglyceridaemia), accidental damage or injury to the pancreas (like during a procedure to remove gallstones or examine the pancreas), a side effect of medicine, viruses like mumps or measles, high blood calcium levels (known as hypercalcaemia), or the immune system attacking the pancreas (known as autoimmune pancreatitis).

However, sometimes the cause is not known.

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Acute pancreatitis treatment

Man in hospital. (Getty Images)
If you have pancreatitis, it's likely you'll go to hospital for care. (Getty Images)

Treatment is given to help control the condition and manage any symptoms, which usually involves being admitted to hospital.

You might be given fluids into a vein (intravenous fluids), pain relief, food in the form of liquid through a tube in your tummy and oxygen through tubes in your nose.

But, as explained above, most people with acute pancreatitis get better within a week and are able to leave hospital after a few days.

Though in some more severe cases, when complications do arise, recovery can take longer.

Chronic pancreatitis symptoms

Man with ongoing pain. (Getty Images)
A chronic condition is something that lasts longterm. (Getty Images)

The most common symptom of chronic pancreatitis is:

  • repeated episodes of severe pain in your abdomen

The pain usually develops in the middle or left side of your abdomen, and can move along your back. You might also experience a burning or shooting pain that comes or goes, but that can last for several hours or days.

While the pain can sometimes come on after eating a meal, there's often no obvious trigger. The symptoms might leave you feeling sick and cause you to vomit.

As the condition gets worse, the painful episodes might also become more frequent and severe. You might then experience a constant dull pain in your tummy in between episodes, which is most common in people who continue to drink alcohol after being diagnosed with the chronic condition.

But for those who stop drinking and smoking, the pain might be less severe.

As the damage to the pancreas progresses and it becomes unable to produce digestive juices (which help to break down food), it becomes harder for the body to break down fats and some proteins.

But while this might seem daunting, the pancreas usually only loses these functions many years after the first symptoms started, giving you an opportunity to help prevent this from happening.

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However, if it does progress further, you might experience further symptoms, as listed by the NHS:

  • poo that becomes smelly and greasy, making it harder to flush down the toilet

  • weight loss

  • yellowing of the skin and eyes (known as jaundice)

  • symptoms of diabetes (like feeling very thirsty, needing to pee more often than usual and feeling very tired)

  • ongoing nausea and sickness (including vomiting)

Chronic pancreatitis causes

Beers. (Getty Images)
Drinking too much alcohol for a long period of time can make pancreatitis worse. (Getty Images)

As described, the most common cause is drinking excessive amounts of alcohol over many years, causing repeated episodes of acute pancreatitis, and more damage.

The most common cause in children, however, is cystic fibrosis.

Less common causes, also listed by the NHS, include:

  • smoking

  • the immune system attacking the pancreas (known as autoimmune chronic pancreatitis)

  • inheriting a faulty gene that stops the pancreas working properly

  • injury to the pancreas

  • gallstones blocking the openings (ducts) of the pancreas

  • radiotherapy to the tummy

But similarly to acute pancreatitis, sometimes no cause can be found, which is known as idiopathic chronic pancreatitis.

Chronic pancreatitis treatment

Doctor with patient. (Getty Images)
There are a range of treatments that can help you manage chronic pancreatitis. (Getty Images)

While at this stage the damage to the pancreas is permanent, treatment can help control the condition and manage symptoms.

If you have chronic pancreatitis you might be advised to make lifestyle changes, like stopping drinking alcohol and smoking, or be given medicine to relieve pain.

If you're experiencing severe pain, you might also be offered surgery.

Further help might also be required if you suffer from complications of chronic pancreatitis, which can be both physical and mental.

The condition can increase your risk of pancreatic cancer, though this is unlikely.

Getting help

Mental health support group for health condition. (Getty Images)
There is no shame in needing mental health support for suffering from chronic pancreatitis, as well as physical support. (Getty Images)

You should see a GP immediately if you suddenly develop severe abdominal pain, or contact NHS 111 for advice if this isn't possible, the NHS urges.

If you suffer from chronic pancreatitis, you might also need additional support for the psychological and emotional toll suffering from a longterm health condition can have, such as stress, anxiety, or depression, which you can also speak to a GP about.

For more information on the condition see the NHS website on acute pancreatitis and chronic pancreatitis.

As a healthy lifestyle can help to reduce your chances of developing the condition, see this NHS page on prevention.

Or for help with finding further support visit the Guts UK website, email the charity on info@gutscharity.org.uk or call on 020 7486 0341.

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