This is the organ that can transform into a cannibal and eat itself

Little is said about the pancreas and, when we do it, it is usually in a cancer context, which yields very obscure figures and forecasts: only 5% of pancreatic cancer patients survive five years after diagnosis. To understand this disease, the first thing we need is to understand what the pancreas is for. It is easy for us to know that it is the factory of insulin and glucagon (and that, therefore, plays an essential role in the development of diabetes). But the pancreas has another important function, the production of digestive enzymes such as trypsin, amylase and lipase, which serve to make the digestion of sugars, fats and proteins. Their mission is to digest, and they do it so well that the pancreas manufactures them and pours them into the duodenum, but inactive; otherwise, if they were active inside, the pancreas would digest itself. The specialists resemble these enzymes to “small grenades with the fuse put. When they reach the duodenum, they find other enzymes that remove the fuze so that they burst and digest the food. “

The bad happens when, for reasons that are not yet clearly known, that security system fails and the enzymes are activated inside the pancreas, becoming a kind of cannibal organ, which is consumed by the enzymes produced by it. “We do not know the intracellular mechanisms by which this happens. We see that, in the same circumstances, there are people in whom this activation occurs and others in whom it does not. There may be genetic predisposition, anatomical, even biochemical, “said the specialists. The cases of mild pancreatitis that are overcome in a few days, and leave no sequela, but there are others with extremely serious consequences that accompany the patient for years. The first classification we have to do is to distinguish between acute and critical illness. They are two entities that can have a common origin and debut in a similar way, but that, as their own name suggests, evolve differently. In general, while in the acute it is usual for the pancreas to recover and only help to avoid possible complications, in chronic pancreatitis the disease evolves towards the progressive destruction of the gland.

There is a serious disease in which the organ itself becomes cannibalic and consumes itself. What it is about and what the cause

It begins with a sudden pain, a stab of the sternum to the back that, sometimes, is generalized throughout the abdomen. A pain that is accentuated by movement, so the person who suffers tend to curl up and does not usually extend in time: 24-48 hours, sometimes up to a week. The two most frequent causes are: stones in the gall bladder, where the pancreas empties, and excessive consumption of alcohol. But there are also congenital and of unknown cause. The diagnosis is reached by three elements, the symptoms that the patient refers to, in the first place; then, a blood elevation of pancreatic enzymes (lipase and amylase must have doubled or tripled their values, at least), and morphological changes in the gland, which are not always seen “.

These changes are very important. There is a type of acute pancreatitis that leaves no visible lesion in the organ; in it we find pain and elevation of enzymes, but the gland is normal. And there is another type, necrotizing, in which there is a complete outbreak of the pancreas, which can also digest neighboring organs and produce respiratory and cardiac insufficiency but only 10 or 20% of these patients can die. Before the appearance of the disease, a very close monitoring of the patient is essential to see how it evolves. At 24-48 hours they are scanned to see the degree of destruction of the pancreas and predict what the route will be.

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