Is atrophy of the pancreas something to be concerned about?

3 answers | Last updated: Feb 22, 2014
Penguin1 asked...
CT scan showed atrophy of the body and tail of the pancreas. A previous CT scan years ago showed that the tail of the pancreas was small. My family doctor and my gastroenterologist don't seem to think this is something to worry about. I have pain and burning in my upper abdomen and back, can't eat much more than saltines and drink gingerale because of nausea, very tired all the time, belching and passing gas more than usual, changes in stools and urine. My gastro even suggested that it was "psychological" and asked if I had ever been sexually abused! Time for a new doctor?

Answers User - Jennifer Serafin, N.P. Expert
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Jennifer Serafin, N.P. is a registered nurse and geriatric nurse practitioner at the Jewish Homes for the Aged in San Francisco.
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Your CT scan shows some atrophy of the pancreas. The most common causes of atrophy of the pancreas are obesity and chronic diabetes. Diabetics can develop gastroparesis, which causes the

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digestion to slow. This can cause nausea, belching, and constipation, which could explain the symptoms you describe.

I hope that your gastroenterologist ruled out pancreatic enzyme deficiencies to explain your symptoms. If not, this could be another possibility.

What I recommend for you is to get another gastroenterologist to see you for a second opinion. If no physical cause for your digestive issues can be found, then of course a depression or anxiety can certainly cause abdominal issues when not properly treated or recognized. Certain antidepressants have been shown to help reduce chronic abdominal pain and improve overall well being. I would definitely recommend that this is something you should look into if your 2nd opinion doesn't turn up anything. Good luck!


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timuk answered...

The answer you received from Jennifer could not have been more helpful and sound medical advise. Yes, it is most essential you ask your doctor to do blood tests to examine your pancreatic enzymes. There are now simple yet highly sensitive blood tests that may well explain why you are experiencing your symtoms. I too have atrophy of the pancreas and many of the symptoms you describe. I now eat a diet very low in saturated fats and this in time eased most of my symptoms. I really suggest you see a different gastroentologist and they (and your doctor) go straight back to medical school. The pancreas is a tiny, yet vital organ - there are condtitions other than diabetes that should first be ruled out. The good news is, most symptoms of the pancreas can easily be resolved with minor diet and lifestyle changes and hopfully very soon you will be feeling much better.


ChroPancreasSufferer answered...

I too have atrophy of the pancreas due to a rare condition called a pancreas divism with severe chronic pancreatitis. Everything you are describing is chronic pancreatitis and I think you need an ERCP because a lot of illnesses of the pancreas, like mine, can only be diagnosed by an ERCP and go to a Pancreatic Specialist (AKA a Billiary expert), that your gastro doc can refer you to one. I went through multiple stent placements and removals before needing a Whipple with an Islet Auto Transplant November 3rd 2010 at UAB in Birmingham, Alabama. I was sick from 06 to 09 when they, Baylor hospital in Dallas, finally figured it after three years of test, after test, after tests, they figured it out when I was dying and decided to do an ERCP and finally figured out what was wrong with me because I happen to have two small pancreatic ducts, where the average person has one main duct, which does not show up on ANY scan,ultrasound, nothing and both ducts were shut that they could not even get stents into the ducts that my pancreas was about to rupture, so they had to force them in and I went into acute kidney failure and was on dialysis..BTW it was Christmas eve 09 when they found out what was making me sick all this time and all they could say was "SORRY" we didn't believe you but not before accusing me of being a drug seeker, alcoholic, hypochondriac, etc for three years because labs and scans and bone marrow biopsies and lumbar punctures showed nothing.I know my body well and went from doctor to doctor because yeah they can check your Amylase and Lipase but my pancreas is so atrophic it no longer registers either. If you need any help or advice feel free to e-mail me. I don't freely give out my e-mail but have been where you are and you can, I hate to say it, die from this(pancreatitis, etc) if you don't get proper care. I am only saying to anybody with chronic health issue that when you are sick and lack a diagnosis it is important to be your own advocate because nobody else will be and don't take NO for an answer. Labs and scans are not always the answer and I am living proof of that!


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