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The pancreas is a six-inch-long gland located in the abdomen. It has the shape of a flat pear and is surrounded by the stomach, small intestine, liver, spleen, and gallbladder. The head refers to the wide end of the pancreas on the right side of the body. The neck and body are the middle sections. The tail is the thin end of the pancreas on the left side of the body. The uncinate process is the part of the pancreas that bends backward and lies beneath the pancreas head. The superior mesenteric artery and vein, both vital blood vessels, cross behind the pancreas’s neck and in front of the uncinate process. The pancreas is an exocrine and endocrine gland with two primary functions: digestion and blood sugar regulation.




Exocrine Function

The pancreas contains exocrine glands that produce digestive enzymes. Trypsin and chymotrypsin are enzymes that digest proteins; amylase is an enzyme that digests carbohydrates, and lipase is an enzyme that breaks down fats. When food enters the stomach, pancreatic juices are released into a network of ducts that eventually leads to the main pancreatic duct. The pancreatic duct joins the common bile duct to form the ampulla of Vater, which is located in the duodenum, the first portion of the small intestine. The common bile duct originates in the liver and gallbladder and produces bile, which is an important digestive juice. The pancreatic juices and bile released into the duodenum aid in the digestion of fats, carbohydrates, and proteins.

Endocrine Function

The pancreas endocrine component consists of islet cells (islets of Langerhans) that produce and release significant hormones directly into the bloodstream. Insulin, which lowers blood sugar, and glucagon, which raises blood sugar, are two of the most essential pancreatic hormones. Maintaining proper blood sugar levels is critical for the proper functioning of critical organs such as the brain, liver, and kidneys.

Digestion and Pancreas

Pancreatic exocrine cells produce enzymes that aid digestion. Exocrine cells release pancreatic enzymes into a network of small ducts that leads to the main pancreatic duct when food enters the stomach. The pancreatic duct runs the length of the pancreas and transports pancreatic enzymes and other secretions, which are referred to collectively as pancreatic juice. The main pancreatic duct joins the common bile duct, which transports bile from the gallbladder, and the two connect with the duodenum at the ampulla of Vater. Bile and pancreatic enzymes enter the duodenum here to help with fat, carbohydrate, and protein digestion.

Blood Sugar Control Regulation

Hormones are produced by the pancreas’ endocrine cells. Hormones are substances that control or regulate specific bodily functions. They are typically produced in one part of the body and transported through the blood to affect another part of the body. Insulin and glucagon are the two most important pancreatic hormones. Islet cells are pancreatic endocrine cells that produce and secrete insulin and glucagon into the bloodstream. Glucagon raises blood sugar levels while insulin lowers them. These two major hormones work together to keep blood sugar levels stable.

Conditions and disorders that can affect the pancreas

The pancreas might suffer from the following conditions:

  • Type 1 diabetes: Type 1 diabetes is characterized by the absence of insulin production by the pancreas.
  • Type 2 diabetes: Type 2 diabetes is a condition in which your body produces insulin but improperly utilities it.
  • Hyperglycemia: When your body produces too much glucagon, you get hyperglycemia. As a result, blood sugar levels are elevated.
  • Hypoglycemia: When your body generates too much insulin, hypoglycemia results. Low blood sugar levels are the result.
  • Pancreatitis: When enzymes begin to function in the pancreas before they reach the duodenum, pancreatitis results. Alcohol abuse or gallstones may be the cause. Pancreatitis can be short-lived or chronic (chronic). Pancreatic cancer is brought on by cancerous cells in the organ. It can be challenging to diagnose and treat pancreatic cancer.


What does Pancreas do?

The pancreas has an exocrine gland that runs the length of it. It generates enzymes that aid in food digestion (digestion). The following enzymes are released by your pancreas:

  • Lipase: Bile, a fluid made by the liver, work together to break down fats.
  • Amylase: Uses energy to break down carbs.
  • Protease: Protein breakdown agent

As soon as food enters the stomach

  • The tiny ducts (tubes) that enter the major pancreatic duct from your pancreas are where your pancreas releases the pancreatic enzymes.
  • Your bile duct and your major pancreatic duct are connected. The bile is moved through this duct from the liver to the gallbladder.
  • The duodenum is a section of the small intestine where bile travels after leaving the gallbladder.
  • Your duodenum receives both bile and pancreatic enzymes, which break down food.

Pancreas Affected Problems

  • Pancreas problems can have a wide-ranging impact on the body.
  • If the pancreas, for example, does not produce enough digestive enzymes, the digestive system will not absorb nutrients as intended. This can result in weight loss as well as diarrhea.
  • Furthermore, insufficient insulin production increases the risk of diabetes and raises blood glucose levels.


  • Pancreatitis is an inflammation of the pancreas that can be acute or chronic. It has the potential to cause secondary diabetes.
  • Inflammation can occur when gallstones or tumors block the main pancreatic duct. Pancreatic juices will build up and cause damage to the pancreas. The pancreas may begin digesting itself.
  • Mumps, gallstones, trauma, and the use of alcohol, steroids, and drugs can all cause pancreatitis.

Acute Pancreatitis 

Acute pancreatitis is a sudden and severe inflammation of the pancreas. Although the condition is uncommon, it requires immediate medical attention. Among the symptoms are:

  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Fever 
  • Muscle aches 
  • Intense abdominal pain
  • Tenderness, and swelling
  • Fluids and painkillers are usually administered as soon as possible.
  • If a secondary infection develops, surgery may be required.

Chronic Pancreatitis 

  • Chronic pancreatitis can develop if acute pancreatitis occurs repeatedly, causing permanent damage.
  • The most common cause is alcoholism, which primarily affects middle-aged men.
  • Among the symptoms are:
    • persistent upper abdominal and back pain 
    • weight loss
    • diarrhea
    • diabetes
    • mild jaundice

Pancreatitis Hereditary

  • A person may develop pancreatitis if they inherit faulty PRSS1 and SPINK1 genes.
  • It is a progressive disease that can result in permanent damage. The individual may suffer from pain, diarrhea, malnutrition, or diabetes. The treatment aims to control pain while also replacing lost enzymes.

Pancreatitis Cancer

Cancer of the pancreas is possible. Although the exact cause is frequently unknown, risk factors for pancreatic cancer include:

  • Consuming alcoholic beverages while smoking
  • Diabetes, being overweight, and obesity
  • liver issues caused by chronic pancreatitis
  • Infections of the stomach
  • Among the symptoms are:
  • Upper abdominal pain caused by the tumor pressing against the nerves
  • Jaundice
  • loss of appetite
  • nausea,
  • vomiting, 
  • significant weight loss
  • weakness
  • pale or gray stool
  • excess fat in the stool is a symptom of jaundice.

Pancreatic cancer symptoms may not appear until cancer has progressed. It may be too late by then for effective treatment. Pancreatic cancer typically has a poor prognosis. Localized pancreatic cancer has a 5-year survival rate of around 42%. If cancer spreads to other organs, the survival rate drops to 3%. Overall, the 5-year survival rate is 11%.

Surgery, chemotherapy, radiation, or a combination of these treatments is usually used. Palliative care seeks to alleviate pain. Pancreatic cancer accounts for approximately 3% of all cancer cases and 7% of cancer deaths in the United States.

Treatment for Pancreatic Conditions 

Depending on the disease, healthcare providers treat pancreatic issues in several ways:

  • Diabetes: Insulin replacement.
  • Pancreatic Cancer: Chemotherapy, radiation, and surgery.
  • Pancreatitis: dietary modifications, medicines, and occasionally surgery.
    Some folks might require a pancreatectomy or a pancreatic transplant (surgical removal of some or all of the pancreas). Less frequently, individuals may undergo a liver transplant to maintain insulin function in the islets of Langerhans (pancreatic cells that produce insulin and glucagon).

FAQs on Pancreas

Question 1: Is it possible to live without a pancreas?


Living without a pancreas is possible. However, when the entire pancreas is removed, people are left without the cells that produce insulin and other hormones that help keep blood sugar levels stable. Diabetes develops in these people, which can be difficult to manage because they are completely reliant on insulin shots.

Question 2: Is pancreatitis curable?


Chronic pancreatitis has no cure, but the associated pain and symptoms can be managed or even avoided. Because chronic pancreatitis is most commonly caused by alcohol, abstaining from alcohol is frequently used to alleviate pain.

Question 3: How does one cleanse the pancreas?


Drinking plenty of water and eating fresh fruits and vegetables are two of the best ways to cleanse your pancreas. It is especially important to consume products with high water content. Increase your fiber consumption as well. Fiber is required for good gut health and digestion.

Question 4: Is pancreatitis potentially fatal?


Approximately 4 out of 5 cases of acute pancreatitis improve quickly and do not cause any serious complications. However, one out of every five cases is severe and can lead to life-threatening complications such as multiple organ failure. In severe cases where complications develop, the condition has a high risk of being fatal.

Question 5: What foods are particularly taxing on your pancreas?


Stick to sugar-free lemon tea, herbal teas, or dairy alternatives like oat milk for beverages. The pancreas is commonly irritated by foods such as liver, red meat, hamburgers, French fries, and potato chips. Other foods to avoid include full-fat milk or cheese, margarine, and butter, as well as pastries and mayonnaise.

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Last Updated : 28 Oct, 2022
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