Hereditary pancreatitis is a condition associated with recurrent pancreatitis (inflammation of the pancreas) which can eventually progress into chronic pancreatitis (severe scarring of the pancreas). It is a genetic condition that is passed on from one generation to the next.
The pancreas is responsible for the production of digestive juices and the hormones insulin and glucagon. Recurrent episodes of the condition can lead to permanent damage to the tissues and loss of function. Symptoms of hereditary pancreatitis typically show by the age of 20 years, and may include pain in the upper abdomen, nausea, vomiting, diarrhoea, malnutrition and diabetes.
Hereditary pancreatitis can be diagnosed by reviewing your medical history and your family’s medical histories. Your doctor may order a genetic blood test to confirm the diagnosis. There is currently no cure for hereditary pancreatitis and treatment involves managing symptoms and providing optimal nutrition. Your doctor may recommend lifestyle changes such as cessation of smoking and drinking, pain medications to control pain and enzyme replacement therapy to replenish the lost pancreatic enzymes due to the dysfunctional pancreas. Advanced cases of hereditary pancreatitis may require surgery to remove the pancreas.