Dhiraj Yadav, MD, discusses the epidemiology of chronic pancreatitis, including his finding that less than half of cases are due to alcohol-related causes, the role of cigarette smoking in causing the disease, and challenges in diagnosing pancreatic exocrine insufficiency.
Chronic pancreatitis (CP), though a serious disease with a high risk of complications, is notoriously challenging to diagnose in its early stages. Indeed, years often elapse between the onset of symptoms and diagnosis—particularly in patients without a history of alcoholism. This delay in diagnosis is made all the more troubling by a recent study finding that less than half of CP cases are due to alcohol-related causes. Patients with idiopathic CP as well as those with causes unrelated to alcohol represent an unexpectedly large subgroup, particularly among women. Among the risk factors assessed in the study, smoking was independently associated with CP.
The risk of complications and the severe impact of pancreatitis-associated pain on quality of life argue for a more concerted effort to diagnose those with CP in a timely manner. Once patients are diagnosed with CP, treatment with pancreatic enzyme therapy can alleviate complications such as malabsorption and steatorrhea, which can lead to muscle wasting.
To get some insight into CP epidemiology, MD Magazine: Peers & Perspectives spoke with the lead author of the study on the incidence and prevalence of CP mentioned above, Dhiraj Yadav, MD, an assistant professor of medicine in the division of gastroenterology and hepatology at the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center. You can listen to an audio recording of the interview below, or click here to read an edited transcript.
1. Yadav D, Timmons L, Benson JT, et al. Incidence, prevalence, and survival of chronic pancreatitis: a population- based study [published online ahead of print September 27, 2011]. Am J Gastroenterol. Accessed November 10, 2011.