Pancreatitis in Children | Symptoms and Causes

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Boston Children’s Pancreatic Disorders Program specializes in the diagnosis and treatment of acute and chronic pancreatitis in children. And we are dedicated to providing exceptional and compassionate care to every child we treat. Learn more about the signs and symptoms of both conditions.

What are the symptoms of chronic pancreatitis?

Abdominal pain

  • pain and discomfort greatest in the upper abdomen
  • pain may last from hours to days; over time, may always be present
  • pain may increase after eating or drinking
  • pain may also be felt in the back

Digestive issues

  • chronic weight loss, even when eating habits and amounts are normal
  • nausea, vomiting and/or diarrhea
  • oily stools
  • pale or clay-looking stools

What causes chronic pancreatitis?

When scarring of the pancreas occurs, the organ is no longer able to make the right amount of these enzymes. As a result, your body may be unable to digest fat and key elements of food.

Damage to the parts of the pancreas that make insulin may lead to diabetes.

Repeated episodes of acute pancreatitis can lead to chronic pancreatitis. Genetics may be a factor in some cases. However, sometimes, the cause is unknown.

Other conditions that have been linked to chronic pancreatitis:

  • problems when the immune system attacks the body
  • blockage of the tubes (ducts) that drain enzymes from the pancreas
  • Cystic fibrosis
  • high levels of a fat, called triglycerides, in the blood
  • overactive parathyroid gland
  • use of certain medicines (especially sulfonamides, thiazides, and azathioprine)

Make an Appointment

For more information, appointments or to request a second opinion, please call the Boston Children’s Pancreatic Disorders Program at 617-355-6058 or request an appointment online.

What are the symptoms of acute pancreatitis?

Other potential symptoms include:

  • nausea
  • vomiting
  • fever
  • back pain
  • difficulty breathing

If your child is an infant and cannot verbalize pain, they may be more fussy and irritable with persistent crying. It is important to remember that the symptoms can be vague and confused with signs of other diseases such as viral gastroenteritis.

What causes acute pancreatitis?

There are many causes of acute pancreatitis. And in approximately 30 percent of cases of acute pancreatitis, a cause cannot be identified. Sometimes injury to the abdomen — such as a bicycle or playground accident or sports injury — can cause acute pancreatitis.

Common medications and conditions may cause pancreatitis, including:

  • anti-seizure medications
  • certain antibiotics
  • specific types of chemotherapy
  • other conditions, such as gallstones or infections, may cause acute pancreatitis
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