The pancreas is an organ responsible for the production of enzymes that help in digestion. Pancreatic insufficiency is a condition in which the pancreas fails to produce the required amount of digestive enzymes, which thereby affects the breakdown and absorption of food. This is mainly caused when the pancreas is damaged due to chronic inflammation, underlying pancreatic diseases, excessive alcohol consumption and surgeries that remove the pancreas.
The major symptoms of pancreatic insufficiency include:
- Loose stools
- Steatorrhoea (high fat content in stools)
- Abdominal pain or discomfort
- Vitamin deficiencies
- Loss of appetite
- Weight reduction
Pancreatic insufficiency can be diagnosed with a test that examines fat content in stools, blood tests to measure the amount of pancreatic enzymes, imaging tests to identify damage of the pancreas, and biopsy (sample of the tissue is removed and examined under the microscope) to examine the pancreatic tissue.
Treatment for pancreatic insufficiency is determined based on the cause of the condition. The different treatments include pancreatic enzyme medication, a low fat diet and anti-oxidants which prevent further damage of the organ.