What does the pancreas do: Functions of Pancreas, Pancreatitis and Pancreatic Cancer

What does the pancreas do: Functions of Pancreas

What is the pancreas?

The Pancreas is a gland that is nearly six inches long and is located in front of the spine and below your stomach. It plays two major roles in the body. It plays two major roles in our body, Endocrine, and Exocrine functions. The endocrine is responsible for the secretion of hormones like glucagon and insulin level while the exocrine function of the pancreas is to secrete enzymes into the human digestive system.


What does the pancreas do?

The pancreas plays a very important role in the human digestive system and in hormone secretion. It is done using two types of system, Endocrine System and Exocrine System.

Exocrine System:  The exocrine system secretes a juice that contains several enzymes. It looks watery and alkaline. It is used to break down the food into smaller pieces which can now be digested easily and nutrition can be absorbed by the intestine.

The enzyme secreted by the exocrine system includes trypsin and chymotrypsin, which are used to digest protein from the food. It also contains amylase to break down carbohydrates, and lipase to break down fats.

Endocrine system: The endocrine system secretes blood-sugar regulating hormones like insulin and glucagon.

  • Insulin: Insulin regulates glucose from the blood into muscles and tissues. It also helps the liver to absorb glucose for future use in the form of glycogen.
  • Glucagon: Glucagon is secreted when the blood sugar falls, it breaks into glucose in the liver and then regulates through the bloodstream, maintaining blood sugar level.

What conditions affect the pancreas?

Diabetic Mellitus is a major condition happens due to endocrine dysfunction. The pancreas is unable to produce a required insulin level to maintain blood sugar levels. This can lead to

  • feeling exhausted
  • feeling thirsty
  • losing weight without
  • frequent peeing
  • blurry eyesight
  • tingling sensations
  • sensitivity in your gums

More conditions that can affect your pancreas:
  • Pancreatitis
  • Pancreatic cancer

What is Pancreatitis?

Pancreatitis is a condition in which the pancreas gets swollen. It is generally caused by when the main duct of the pancreas is blocked. Acute Pancreatitis can lead to secondary diabetes. Pancreatitis can occur due to Alcohol and drug consumption, stones in the gall bladder, or trauma.

Types of Pancreatitis

Acute pancreatitis: It is a sudden swelling that lasts for a short time. It can range from mild discomfort to severe, fatal illness. In severe cases, acute pancreatitis can cause bleeding, tissue damage, ulcers, and infections. Severe pancreatitis can also damage the heart, lungs, and kidneys.

Causes of acute pancreatitis

  • Autoimmune diseases
  • Drinking lots of alcohol
  • Infections
  • Gallstones
  • Medications
  • Metabolic disorders
  • Surgery
  • Trauma

Symptoms of acute pancreatitis

  • Fever
  • Higher heart rate
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Swollen and tender belly
  • Pain in stomach

Chronic pancreatitis: It is a long-lasting inflammation. It often occurs after an episode of acute pancreatitis. Another top reason is to drink a lot of alcohol for a long time. Damage to your pancreas with heavy alcohol use may not cause symptoms for many years, but then you may suddenly have severe pancreatitis symptoms. 

Causes of Chromic pancreatitis

  • Family history of pancreas disorders
  • Cystic fibrosis
  • Gallstones
  • High triglycerides
  • Longtime alcohol use
  • Medications

Symptoms of chronic pancreatitis

  • Constant pain in your upper part of the stomach.
  • Diarrhea 
  • Weight loss
  • Upset stomach and vomiting

Hereditary pancreatitis: It can occur if there is an inherited problem in the pancreas or intestine. A person under the age of 30 may experience acute pancreatitis repeatedly, which can lead to a chronic condition.

This is a progressive condition that can cause permanent damage. People may feel diabetes, pain diarrhea, malnutrition. The purpose of treatment is to control pain to replace lost enzymes

What is Pancreatic Cancer?

This condition is caused by cancerous cells in the pancreas. Types of primary pancreatic cancer include those that affect the endocrine and exocrine pancreas and pancreatic lymphoma. Cancer in the limb adjacent to the pancreas, such as the duodenum or liver, may also attack the pancreas. 

Pancreatic cancer can be difficult to detect at first because the pancreas is moved behind several large organs that can make it difficult for your doctor to pinpoint the tumor with a physical examination or imaging tests.

Signs and symptoms of pancreatic cancer 

  • Stomach ache that radiates to your back
  • Loss of appetite or unexpected weight loss
  • Yellowing of your skin and whitening of your eyes (jaundice)
  • Light-colored stool
  • Dark-colored urine
  • itchy skin
  • New diagnosis of diabetes or existing diabetes which is becoming more difficult to control
  • Blood clots
  • Fatigue

Causes of Pancreatic Cancer

  • Smoking
  • Diabetes
  • Chronic inflammation of the pancreas
  • Family history of pancreatic cancer
  • Obesity
  • Older age

Can you live without a pancreas?

The answer to this question is YES. You can live without pancreas by maintaining the enzymes and hormonal disbalance with the use of modern medicine. The absence of the pancreas can lead to the occurrence of Mellitus diabetes because of the lack of insulin in the body. For this, you should concern about certain factors:

  • Take pills to balance enzyme dis-balance
  • Use injections for insulin
  • Regular workout
  • Follow diabetic diet

How do I keep my pancreas healthy?

There are several ways listed below through which you can keep your pancreas healthy.

1. Loose weight: Maintain your overall body fat and keep your body fit to avoid diabetes mellitus and gallstones that lead to pancreatitis. Moreover staying fit is always a good option and it is an indirect cure for most of the disease.

2. Don't drink too much alcohol: Limit your consume on alcohol as it is a very known the reason for both pancreatitis and pancreatic cancer.

3. Eat Low-fat diet: Diet containing fats and cholesterol leads to the formation of gall stones, eat green veggies and avoid fried food.

4. Don't use a quick weight loss diet plan: This may lead to the accumulation of fat in the liver which in turn forms gallstones.

5: Don't Smoke: Tobacco products can increase your risk of cancer in your pancreas. Between 20 and 30% of pancreatic cancer cases are the result of tobacco use.

6. Exercise Regularly: Exercise regularly to stay fit and maintain body weight. It maintains your blood sugar level and also helps in regulation.


The pancreas is a vital gland of the human body. It performs both endocrine and exocrine functions. It helps in regulating and maintaining blood sugar level as well as help in food digestion. It is possible to live without the pancreas by full-filling the need for enzymes through external pills.


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