Pancreatitis: An Overview

Pancreatitis is an inflammation of the pancreas. It can be either acute or chronic, and has several potential causes. Here’s what you need to know about the condition. 

Pancreatitis Causes and Risk Factors

Pancreatitis occurs when digestive enzymes are activated while in the pancreas, irritating cells and causing inflammation. It can be acute or chronic. Repetitive acute cases can cause permanent damage to the pancreas and lead to chronic issues. 

Some potential causes include gallstones, alcoholism, infections, cystic fibrosis, genetic disorders, obesity, cancer, and abdominal injuries. Acute cases are most often caused by gallstones. Chronic cases are most often a result of heavy alcohol use or genetic disorders. 

There are several risk factors for pancreatitis. Heavy alcohol use and smoking are both risk factors. Heavy drinkers- people drinking 4-5+ drinks each day- have an increased risk. Smokers are around 3x more likely to develop the condition, and people who quit smoking decrease their risk by about half. 


The most common symptom of pancreatitis is upper abdominal pain that can spread to your back. In acute cases, the pain usually begins in the upper abdomen and sometimes spreads to the back. It can last for a few days and can be mild to severe. People with acute cases may also have a fever and a swollen abdomen, and experience nausea, vomiting, and a fast heartbeat. 

In chronic cases, people also usually feel pain in their upper abdomen that sometimes spreads to the back. However, in some cases people may not feel any symptoms if the condition is not advanced. If it does become advanced, the pain can become severe and constant, becoming worse after eating. Other symptoms in these cases can include nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, weight loss, and greasy stools. Severe chronic and acute cases require medical attention.

Diagnosing Pancreatitis

An array of tests can help diagnose pancreatitis. Doctors often use blood tests to check for elevated pancreatic enzyme levels. In chronic cases, stool tests can help identify high levels of fat that indicate malabsorption. Plus, CT scans and abdominal ultrasounds can identify gallstones and the amount of pancreatic inflammation. MRIs can also look for issues in the pancreas, gallbladder, and ducts. Also, doctors can use endoscopic ultrasounds to identify blockages and inflammation in the pancreatic or bile ducts. 

Treatment and Prevention

Treating pancreatitis usually begins with a few steps in the hospital. Usually, patients fast for a few days to rest the pancreas. Doctors may place an IV to prevent or treat dehydration. Medications can help with pain as well.  

After these initial steps, doctors work to treat the underlying cause of pancreatitis. Sometimes, this can mean gallbladder surgery to remove the gallbladder if gallstones are a factor. In other cases, it may mean surgery on the pancreas to drain fluid or remove diseased tissue. An ERCP can help diagnose and treat causes like bile and pancreatic duct problems as well. 

If heavy alcohol use is a factor, reducing alcohol consumption is an important step to prevent serious complications. Additionally, in chronic cases of pancreatitis, ongoing pain management may be necessary. This can include a combination of medications, surgery, and endoscopic ultrasounds to relieve pain. Also, dietary changes (pursuing low-fat, high-nutrient diets) can also help in chronic cases.

Our experienced team at GHP has years of experience treating conditions including pancreatitis. We can help establish the best plan of care for your situation. Contact any of our office locations to learn about the options we offer and schedule an appointment today.

Malabsorption: An Overview

Malabsorption is a condition in which a person has difficulty digesting and/or absorbing nutrients from food. Here’s what you need to know. 

Causes of Malabsorption

Malabsorption can be caused by various diseases. Typically, malabsorption involves difficulty absorbing nutrients like vitamins, fats, proteins, or sugars. Any disease that hinders the body’s ability to absorb nutrients can cause this condition. Common diseases that cause it include cystic fibrosis, lactose intolerance, celiac disease, whipple disease, crohn’s disease, an infection affecting the pancreas, HIV and AIDS, parasitic infection, and some genetic disorders. Some medications can cause the condition as well. Additionally, malabsorption can occur as a side effect of radiation treatments and surgeries that remove part of the small intestine or pancreas. 


Several symptoms can accompany malabsorption. These include bloating, gas, abnormal stool, and chronic diarrhea. Children with the condition may have a weight or rate of weight gain that is much lower than average, and may not grow and develop at expected rates. Adults can experience weight loss, weakness, and difficulty thinking. 


Diagnosing malabsorption can involve several types of exams and tests. Doctors evaluate a patient’s medical history and symptoms to gather initial evidence. They then may pursue different testing approaches. Stool tests can measure the amount of fat in a patient’s stool to diagnose the malabsorption of fat, one of the most common symptoms of the condition. Stool samples can also be examined under a microscope to identify any undigested food fragments or parasites. Doctors may also perform blood or urine testing to detect high levels of undigested substances like Vitamin B-12 or lactose. 

Once malabsorption is diagnosed, identifying the underlying cause is an important next step. Biopsies, imaging testing (including x-rays and CT scans), and pancreatic function tests can all help identify the underlying cause. 

Treating and Preventing Malabsorption

Treatment involves both treating symptoms and treating the underlying cause of malabsorption to ensure proper nutrient absorption. Medication can treat symptoms like diarrhea. Nutrient and fluid replacement can treat nutrient deficiency and dehydration. Additionally, high-calorie diets can help the body absorb more nutrients. These diets can include varying amounts of proteins, fats, carbohydrates, and key vitamins and minerals. Injections of vitamins and minerals can also sometimes help. There are also some medications that can slow down the digestion process in the small intestine. This allows food to be in the small intestine for a longer time. 

Prevention measures vary based on the underlying cause of the condition. When diseases like cystic fibrosis or celiac are a factor, managing those diseases is an important way to prevent malabsorption issues. Additionally, since some antibiotics and laxatives can cause malabsorption, you should use them carefully. Follow your doctor’s instructions to manage and treat the condition and prevent it from becoming severe. 

Our experienced team at GHP has years of experience treating conditions including malabsorption. We can help establish the best plan of care for your situation. Contact any of our office locations to learn about the options we offer and schedule an appointment today.

Cirrhosis: What You Need to Know

Cirrhosis is a condition in which your liver is scarred and suffers permanent damage. Here’s what you need to know about the condition. 

Causes and Risk Factors

When the liver is damaged, it attempts to repair itself and scar tissue forms. Over time, this scar tissue builds up and makes it difficult for the liver to function. Cirrhosis is the term for late stage damage. Damage can be caused by various conditions and diseases. These include chronic alcohol abuse, syphilis, chronic viral hepatitis, some genetic disorders, and nonalcoholic fatty liver disease. 

Risk factors for cirrhosis include excessive alcohol consumption, having viral hepatitis, and being overweight. Each of these factors can lead to some of the diseases and conditions listed above, which can damage the liver and lead to cirrhosis over time. 

Symptoms of Cirrhosis

There are several potential symptoms of cirrhosis. In the early stages of disease, many people do not experience any symptoms. Symptoms and complications often occur in later stages of disease, when it is more severe. These include severely itchy skin, fatigue, nausea, loss of appetite, jaundice, easily bleeding and bruising, and fluid accumulation on the abdomen. 


In cases of early-stage cirrhosis, most people do not have symptoms, and diagnosis is likely to be incidental through a routine blood test or doctor’s visit. In general, doctors diagnose cirrhosis through a combination of physical exams, blood tests, medical history, and symptoms. Often, doctors will order additional testing to confirm a diagnosis. They may do this through blood testing, imaging tests, or biopsy. Imaging tests and biopsies can help determine the extent of cirrhosis, and blood testing can help identify the underlying cause of the condition. For example, blood testing may help identify elevated bilirubin levels, creatinine levels, or hepatitis infection. 

Treating Cirrhosis

Treatment approaches for cirrhosis vary based on the extent and cause of liver damage. Typically, treatment will focus on preventing or treating any symptoms and slowing the rate of scar tissue buildup on the liver. If doctors catch cirrhosis early, the underlying cause may be treatable to reduce any further damage. For example, if someone has developed it as a result of chronic alcohol abuse, their doctor will likely recommend they quit drinking. They may be encouraged to join an alcohol addiction program if quitting is difficult.

If hepatitis causes cirrhosis, there are medications that can treat the virus to prevent further liver damage. If it develops due to nonalcoholic fatty liver disease, focusing on weight loss and controlling blood sugar can help. Additionally, there are often medications that can help treat symptoms and complications like pain, itching, and osteoporosis. In late-stage cases, when the liver has too much damage to function, a liver transplant may be the only option. 


Preventing and managing cirrhosis entail several lifestyle behaviors. Avoiding alcohol, practicing safe sex, exercising regularly, eating a healthy diet, and using over the counter medicines carefully are good prevention measures. 

Our experienced team at GHP has years of experience treating conditions including cirrhosis. We can help establish the best plan of care for your situation. Contact any of our office locations to learn about the options we offer and schedule an appointment today.


What is Jaundice?

Jaundice causes the whites of the eyes, skin, and mucous membranes to turn yellow as a result of heightened levels of bilirubin. Here’s what you need to know about the condition.  

Causes and Risk Factors

Jaundice is ultimately caused by bilirubin levels that are too high. Bilirubin is a yellow chemical in hemoglobin, the part of red blood cells that carries oxygen. The body builds new red blood cells when old ones break down, and the liver processes the old cells. When the liver is unable to process these old cells properly, bilirubin builds up in the blood and deposits in the skin. The yellow color of bilirubin is what causes the yellowing of skin in jaundice. 

Jaundice is relatively common in newborns- many babies develop it in their first week of life, and it often goes away without issue. In adults, jaundice can be a sign of various problems. These include liver diseases (like alcoholic liver disease, cirrhosis, and hepatitis), blood diseases, infections, blocked bile ducts, and viruses. 

Symptoms of Jaundice 

There are several symptoms of jaundice that people can experience at different levels of severity. Some people may not even have any symptoms. Ultimately, the symptoms a person experiences will depend upon underlying causes and the speed at which disease develops. In short-term cases, often caused by infections, symptoms typically include fever, abdominal pain, chills, flu-like symptoms, yellowed skin and eye whites, dark urine, and clay-colored stool. If a case is not caused by infection, symptoms can include weight loss and itchy skin. Abdominal pain is also common when pancreatic or bile duct cancers cause jaundice. 


Jaundice is diagnosed through a few different steps. Doctors first perform physical exams to check for signs of liver disease. These signs include yellowing and bruising of the skin, spider angiomas (blood vessels that collect near the skin surface), and palmar erythema (red coloration in the fingertips and palms). They also perform urinalysis to check bilirubin levels in the urine, which can indicate jaundice. They often perform serum testing to confirm findings from urinalysis as well. Additionally, they may want to pursue imaging of the liver through an MRI, CT, or ultrasonography to further confirm any diagnosis. 

Treatment and Prevention for Jaundice

Treatment for jaundice entails treating the underlying causes and complications of the condition, as well as any symptoms. For instance, if acute viral hepatitis is a cause, it will go away as your liver heals.  Treatment may entail treating the hepatitis symptoms. Surgery can help unblock bile ducts in cases of blocked ducts. A drug called cholestyramine can be used to limit itching if itchy skin is a symptom. 

Preventing jaundice entails preventing the various underlying causes. This means that limiting alcohol intake, avoiding hepatitis infection, and maintaining a healthy weight and cholesterol levels can all reduce your risk. 

Our experienced team at GHP has years of experience treating conditions including jaundice. We can help establish the best plan of care for your situation. Contact any of our office locations to learn about the options we offer and schedule an appointment today.