What causes acute pancreatitis?
Acute pancreatitis is an inflammatory process that occurs when the pancreas becomes inflamed. It can be caused by either biliary or nonbiliary causes. Biliary pancreatitis is most commonly caused by gallstones, but it can refer to anything related to the liver and its association with the pancreas. Nonbiliary causes are independent of the liver and the gallbladder. There is a wide variety of causes, including:
- Alcoholism: Up to 25% of cases of acute pancreatitis are caused by heavy drinking. And many more cases happen in patients who frequently engage in binge drinking.
- Gallstones: They can travel through the biliary ducts and become stuck in the common duct shared by the gallbladder and the pancreas. When this happens, pancreatic juice activates the digestive enzymes, and pancreatitis ensues.
- Hypercalcemia: When calcium levels are very high, it can trigger pancreatitis, but it is rare.
- Medications: Some medications can trigger or activate acute pancreatitis. For example, statins, tetracyclines, and valproate have been found to trigger pancreatitis in some cases.
- Trauma: When you receive a high-energy trauma in your abdomen, and the pancreas is involved, you can also develop inflammation in the organ.