The pancreas, that great unknown
The pancreas is responsible for segregating digestive enzymes and producing hormones , such as insulin. This organ of about 100gr has been a great unknown for medicine until recent times, which is due to its difficult access and because, until the 90s, adequate means of diagnosis by image were not available.
In the mid-nineteenth century, it was discovered that, in reality, the pancreas was not a single organ, but two in one. On the one hand is the endocrine pancreas , which is occupied by endocrinologists, which manufactures hormones such as insulin or glucagon, and on the other hand we find the exocrine pancreas, which are entrusted by digesters, in charge of manufacturing digestive enzymes.
Currently, there are very good means to study the exocrine pancreas , so that inflammatory changes and the presence of tumors can be evaluated. These are detected more and more in their initial stages, and they are able to detect inflammations previously invisible to the eyes.
Chronic pancreatitis in Spain
The diagnosed cases of chronic pancreatitis are just the tip of the iceberg, as there are many patients who develop pancreatic diseases and are undiagnosed. Many patients who suffer from abdominal pain, poor digestion, diarrhea etc may have affected the pancreas.
Chronic pancreatitis produces abdominal pain after eating and as the disease progresses, the cells are destroyed and this organ is reduced, causing Diabetes Mellitus and maldigestion of food. In Spain, it is estimated that the disease affects 50 per 100,000 inhabitants , which means a total of 23,500 people , many of them undiagnosed.
A new risk factor?
Each year, in our country, more than 2,000 new cases of chronic pancreatitis are diagnosed. Although it has always been attributed to excessive consumption of alcohol, there are some confirmations that smoking is also an important risk factor .