There are several causes of a fatty pancreas, including obesity, alcohol use, and disease. Eating foods high in fat can lead to fatty infiltration around the pancreas and other organs in the body. This can also be caused by substances like alcohol which cause the pancreas to metabolize fats less efficiently, resulting in buildup.
Symptoms of a fatty pancreas may be vague at first, but can include nausea, vomiting, smelly stools, diarrhea, loss of appetite, back or abdominal pain, and spots on the pancreas during an ultrasound or another exam. These symptoms mimic those of other disorders. In most cases, this condition occurs as part of aging and does not cause serious problems. When it becomes severe, however, it may cause inflammation and cause the pancreas to work less efficiently.
Eating a diet high in fats and processed foods is one risk factor for fatty pancreas. Studies have shown that those who are overweight or obese have a much higher likelihood of suffering from pancreas issues than those who are at a healthy weight. Many times, losing weight and cutting out unhealthy foods from the diet is all that is needed to remove fatty infiltration from the organ.
People who drink excessive amounts of alcohol are also at an increased risk for fatty pancreas. Alcohol consumption changes the way the body metabolizes food and may cause inflammation of the pancreas over time. Sometimes abstaining from alcohol will take care of the problem, but this depends on the amount of damage already done. Irreversible damage may have already been inflicted.
Certain diseases may also contribute to fat around the pancreas, including hepatitis C. Treatment may vary based on the condition, or medications may be used to supplement pancreas function. This may include digestive aids to help break down food and injections of insulin, which is secreted by the pancreas.
Those with any symptoms of a pancreatic disorder should seek medical help right away. Although the symptoms may be indicative of any number of minor illnesses, sometimes a serious condition is the cause. Fatty pancreas shares some symptoms with liver problems and pancreatic cancer. Cancer of the pancreas is usually aggressive and needs to be caught early for optimum treatment options.