Pancreatitis, Social Security Disability, and Applying for Benefits

The pancreas is a gland, located between the upper small intestine and the spleen. It plays an important role in metabolism and digestion by secreting digestive enzymes and releasing glucagon and insulin into the bloodstream necessary for the body to digest food and turn it into energy.

Pancreatitis is an inflammation of the pancreas that is caused by the digestive enzymes becoming active inside the pancreas, which results in enzymes 'digesting' or attacking the pancreas itself. Normally these digestive enzymes do not become active until they have reached the small intestine.

Pancreatitis may be acute or chronic. Acute pancreatitis appears suddenly and usually becomes resolved and leaves quickly. Chronic pancreatic appears gradually over time and causes a slow destruction of the pancreas. In both cases the sufferer will experience abdominal pain that can range from mild to severe, sometimes accompanied by fever, nausea and vomiting. Either acute or chronic pancreatitis can cause serious or fatal complications and should be checked and treated right away. If left untreated bleeding may occur and infection and toxins may damage other organs, such as the kidneys, lungs or heart.

The most common causes of pancreatitis are gallstones and excessive alcohol use, though there are other notable causes, such as scorpion venom, mumps, trauma, steroids, other diseases, hereditary genes and certain medications. Cystic fibrosis and high levels of calcium in the blood may also be causes, as well as a plethora of other causes.

Pancreatitis is usually diagnosed with a physical exam and a blood test. If the blood contains three times the amount of amylase and lipase as it should, coupled with abdominal pain, the doctor will usually follow up with a CT scan to show gallstones, inflammation and psuedocysts.

Treatment for pancreatitis, whether acute or chronic, depends on how severe it is and whether there were complications in the other organs. A supplementation of enzymes and a healthy diet can sometimes reverse acute pancreatitis, though medical care is imperative to avoid complications. Acute pancreatitis can be as fatal as chronic pancreatitis, especially if it is not treated right away.

In either acute or chronic pancreatitis a hospital stay to help hydrate the patient may be necessary, in addition to intravenous feeding. Antibiotics may be prescribed for infection. Oxygen may be administered. Surgery may be needed if bleeding occurs and dialysis may be used to help remove toxins from the blood.

Pancreatitis can be fatal. Any abdominal pain should be reported to a doctor and treated right away.

About the Author: Tim Moore is a former Social Security Disability Examiner in North Carolina, has been interviewed by the NY Times and the LA Times on the disability system, and is an Accredited Disability Representative (ADR) in North Carolina. For assistance on a disability application or Appeal in NC, click here.

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