If your pancreas is not working properly, you may experience symptoms like persistent upper abdominal pain, unintentional weight loss, abdominal swelling, persistent nausea, and vomiting.
The pancreas plays a critical role in your body. It produces enzymes that aid digestion and hormones like insulin to regulate blood sugar levels. However, when the pancreas isn’t functioning correctly, it can cause a variety of symptoms.
As a family medicine physician, I’d like to help you comprehend these signs so you can seek medical help when necessary. Here are seven signs that your pancreas may not be working properly.
1. Abdominal Pain
One of the most common signs that your pancreas is not working properly is abdominal pain. Pancreatitis, or inflammation of the pancreas, often leads to a sharp, constant pain in the upper abdomen.
The pain may radiate to the back and often worsens after eating, particularly when consuming high-fat meals. In some patients, the pain may worsen while eating and drinking.
Acute pancreatitis can cause severe pain and requires immediate medical attention. Chronic pancreatitis, on the other hand, leads to recurring bouts of pain over time.
2. Digestive Issues
Your pancreas produces digestive enzymes that help break down food in the small intestine. If your pancreas isn’t working correctly, it may not produce enough of these enzymes, leading to digestive problems.
This can result in symptoms such as nausea, vomiting, bloating, gas, and diarrhea, particularly after meals. Moreover, you may notice that your stools are oily or greasy, indicating that fat isn’t being properly absorbed due to a lack of pancreatic enzymes.
3. Unintentional Weight Loss
Problems with the pancreas can lead to weight loss for several reasons. If your body isn’t producing enough digestive enzymes, you may not absorb nutrients properly, leading to weight loss even if you’re eating enough.
Additionally, chronic pancreatitis and pancreatic cancer can decrease appetite and increase metabolic demand, contributing to weight loss.
4. Yellowing of Your Skin and Eyes
Jaundice, or the yellowing of your skin and eyes, maybe a sign that your pancreas is not working properly. It occurs when bilirubin, a waste product, builds up in the blood. In terms of pancreas issues, this can happen if a pancreatic tumor blocks the bile duct, preventing bilirubin from being excreted properly.
Jaundice can also be accompanied by other symptoms like dark urine, light-colored stools, and itching.
5. Changes in Blood Sugar Levels
The pancreas is very important in regulating your body’s sugar levels. It does this by producing insulin, a hormone that allows your cells to take in sugar and use it for energy.
If something goes wrong with the pancreas and it isn’t able to make enough insulin, sugar builds up in your bloodstream instead of being absorbed by the cells. This can lead to diabetes. Conversely, if your pancreas produces too much insulin, it can lead to low blood sugar levels, known as hypoglycemia.
Symptoms of abnormal blood sugar levels can include frequent urination, excessive thirst, fatigue, blurred vision, and unexplained weight changes.
6. Swelling and Tenderness
In cases of acute pancreatitis, the abdomen may become swollen and tender. This is due to inflammation and possible infection in the pancreas. This symptom often comes on suddenly and may be accompanied by other symptoms like fever, rapid pulse, and nausea.
As your pancreas helps with the digestion and absorption of nutrients, pancreatic dysfunction can lead to malnutrition over time. Signs of malnutrition can include fatigue, weakness, unexplained weight loss, and deficiencies in vitamins and minerals. Malnutrition is a serious condition that requires prompt medical attention.
The pancreas plays a critical role in your digestive health and blood sugar regulation. If you’re experiencing any of these signs or symptoms, it’s important to consult with a healthcare provider. A comprehensive evaluation can help diagnose pancreatic issues early, leading to more effective treatment and better outcomes.
Further Reading: What Happens If Your Pancreas Doesn’t Produce Enough Insulin?