Pancreatitis is inflammation of the pancreas—a long, flat gland located deep in the abdomen. Part of the pancreas is wedged between the stomach and spine, and the other part is near the curve of the duodenum, which is the first part of the small intestine.

The pancreas is an important organ in the body and part of the digestive system that helps it to digest carbohydrates, fats, and proteins by secreting digestive enzymes into the small intestine. It also releases insulin and glucagon into the body’s bloodstream to help control blood sugar levels.

When a patient suffers from pancreatitis, the pancreas is inflamed because the digestive enzymes are activated too soon and start to attack the organ. If the pancreatitis is severe, there can be bleeding, serious tissue damage, infection, and fluid buildup. Serious cases can result in damage to other important organs such as the kidneys, lungs, and heart.

pancreatitisAccording to The National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases, over 500,000 people were hospitalized due to pancreatitis in 2010, and nearly 3,500 people died. The most common causes of pancreatitis are gallstones and extreme alcohol use. Sometimes, however, the cause of this condition can’t be determined.

If you suffer from chronic pancreatitis, you may be eligible for disability benefits from the Social Security Administration (SSA).

However, it’s not easy to prove your condition makes it impossible for you to work, or has disabled you completely. Because obtaining disability benefits can be challenging, it’s helpful to hire an experienced Social Security (SS) disability attorney to help you file your claim.

Symptoms of Pancreatitis

There are two types of pancreatitis—acute and chronic. The symptoms can be different for each type. Here's a brief look at the symptoms for both acute and chronic pancreatitis:

Acute Pancreatitis

When patients suffer acute pancreatitis, their pancreas is inflamed, and there can be tissue damage, swelling, and also:

  • Severe upper abdominal pain. This pain radiates into the back, and can occur suddenly, or patients may experience a gradual pain that gets worse over time. Typically, the pain continues for several days, and the pain may increase after the patient eats, especially if he eats foods high in fat, or if he lies flat on his back.
  • Fever and nausea. Patients with acute pancreatitis may experience flu-like symptoms such as fever, chills, and nausea. And while some patients may vomit, it won't relieve the pain they feel.
  • Swollen abdomen. Many patients experience a swollen abdomen that is tender when touched.
  • Rapid pulse. This may be caused by the patient’s fever, dehydration because the patient isn’t able to eat, or internal bleeding.

Chronic Pancreatitis

Chronic pancreatitis is a long-term condition that interferes with your body’s ability to regulate blood sugar and digest food. This condition doesn’t improve with time. The damage chronic pancreatitis causes is most often permanent, and the pancreas stops functioning. However, the symptoms and pain can usually be managed with the right kind of treatment.

Symptoms of chronic pancreatitis include:

  • Upper abdomen pain
  • Weight loss for no apparent reason
  • Extreme exhaustion and thirst
  • Diarrhea
  • Fatty, loose stools
  • Shortness of breath

As chronic pancreatitis progresses, the patient may experience more extreme symptoms, including:

  • Jaundice, which can present as yellowish eye discoloration
  • Blockage in the intestine
  • Internal bleeding
  • Pancreatic fluids inside the abdomen

Patients with chronic pancreatitis may suffer painful episodes that go on for hours or days, and some find that any type of liquid or food increases the pain. It’s possible for the pain to be ongoing.

Treatment for Pancreatitis

When you’re admitted to the hospital for pancreatitis, doctors will have you fast for a few days to allow your pancreas some time to recover. After the swelling and inflammation have decreased, you may be allowed to eat bland food and clear liquids before getting back to a regular diet.

However, if the pain continues when you eat, a physician may recommend a feeding tube to allow your body to get the nutrients it needs until you feel better.

Other treatment includes:

  • Intravenous fluids. It’s possible to become dehydrated when you have pancreatitis. So, your doctor will likely give you additional fluids intravenously.
  • Medication for pain. Because pancreatitis is an extremely painful condition, your doctor will provide medication until your pain is under control.

After doctors have your pancreatitis controlled, they’ll treat the cause of your condition, which can include procedures to remove obstructions in the bile duct, pancreas surgery, gallbladder surgery, or treatment for alcohol dependence.

Contact Cuddigan Law

If you’ve been diagnosed with chronic pancreatitis, you may qualify for SS disability benefits, and it’s important to hire an experienced SS attorney to help determine if your condition meets a listing in the SSA Blue Book or if your condition prevents you from performing your past work or any other work.

Contact the attorneys at Cuddigan Law who can help you understand the process and work with you on your application to increase your chances of getting an approved claim. 


Sean D. Cuddigan
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SSA and VA Disability Attorney in Omaha, Nebraska