Monday, November 03, 2014

Pancreatitis Awareness Month

The pancreas is a long and slender gland shaped roughly like an ox-tongue, about 6-8 inches long, sitting in the top of your abdomen. It normally does two things: firstly in an exocrine function it produces enzymes that dissolve meat and fat in your gut.  Secondly, in its endocrine function it makes hormones like the insulin that controls and regulates the levels of glucose (sugar) in your blood. These hormones are produced by tiny cells known as the islets of Langerhan after a German doctor who first spotted them.

Pancreatitis happens when stones, strictures or other blockages cause the enzymes that usually go into the digestive system where they are activated and work on what you eat, to get stuck inside the pancreas.  Unable to do their usual digestive work there these enzymes start devouring the flesh around them, producing terrible inflammation of the pancreas (pancreatitis).  In some extreme cases, like mine, this can become life-threatening, even long after the original cause of the blockage has been removed (in my case gall-stones but often the overuse of alcohol) and can result in hemorrhaging pancreatitis with massive internal bleeding, or necrotising pancreatitis where gangrene sets in within the pancreas, both of which have happened to me over the years and require long-term stays in hospital, often in Intensive Care Units. The long term effects of such attacks of acute pancreatitis can occasionally produce chronic pancreatitis which is the breakdown of the flesh of the organ, producing overwhelming pain and digestive problems. In fact, the dreadful pain of pancreatitis has been described as 'one of the worst pains known to man' and also as being 'like the pain of a heart-attack only it just doesn't stop'. This means that sufferers of this debilitating disease are often in and out of hospital and may need opiates (morphine etc) for pain management.

There is not enough research and funding being put into these diseases and so the month of November 2014 has been designated in the USA as pancreatitis awareness month.  Please pray for those who are searching out treatments and support mechanisms for those suffering from pancreatitis and cancer of the pancreas. In the UK there is a very good support line for pancreatic cancer at Pancreatic Cancer UK and there is also help and information for those struggling with various forms of pancreatitis at the Pancreatitis Supporters' Network where folk who have walked the pathway before us share their wisdom and experience. Let's pray for breakthrough and ask the Lord Jesus Christ, who is described as 'the Great Physician' to grant his comfort and healing to anyone reading this post who suffers from this pernicious illness. Thanks!