20 Signs Your Pancreas Isn’t Working

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Your pancreas is an important organ that helps your body digest food and control your blood sugar. Sometimes, it might not work properly, and it is good to know the signs of this. Here are 20 signs that your pancreas might not be working right. If you notice these signs, talk to a doctor.

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Abdominal Pain

This is often the most prominent symptom of pancreatitis. The pain is usually located in the upper abdomen and can radiate to the back. It may be sudden and severe (acute pancreatitis) or more chronic and persistent (chronic pancreatitis). The pain can worsen after eating or lying flat on the back.

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Nausea and Vomiting

Feeling sick to your stomach and throwing up can be signs to look out for, especially after eating fatty foods. Your pancreas makes enzymes that help break down fat in your digestive system. So, when there’s a problem with your pancreas, it can affect how your body handles fat, leading to nausea.

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Jaundice is a condition where the skin and the whites of the eyes turn yellow. This can happen when the bile duct is blocked. The blockage can be due to swelling of the pancreas. Bilirubin, a yellow pigment that is normally part of bile, cannot move out of the liver. Instead, it builds up in the blood.

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Unexplained Weight Loss

Weight loss can be a sneaky sign of chronic pancreatitis. Even if you are eating like normal, the scale might start to drop. That is because your pancreas is not doing its job right. It is supposed to make enzymes that help break down your food and absorb nutrients. But when it is not working well, those nutrients just pass through your body instead of giving you energy.

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Are you noticing your poop looking oily, or is it extra smelly? That could be steatorrhea. It is a clue that your body is not absorbing fats properly. Normally, your pancreas releases enzymes to break down fats in your food. But if it is not making enough of these enzymes, the fats end up in your stool, making it greasy and smelly.

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Diabetes is when your blood sugar levels are going a bit haywire. Your pancreas is supposed to keep things in check by making insulin, a hormone that helps manage your blood sugar. But if your pancreas is having a tough time because it is inflamed or damaged, it might not make enough insulin. It can lead to diabetes.

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Digestive Problems

When your pancreas is not making enough enzymes, your digestive system can get out of hand. These enzymes are key for breaking down fats, proteins, and carbs. Without enough of them, you might feel bloated, gassy, or have indigestion after eating. That is when you start having digestive problems.

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A fever is when your body is fighting off an infection or dealing with inflammation. If your pancreas is inflamed, a condition called acute pancreatitis, it can trigger a fever as your immune system kicks into high gear to deal with the inflammation. While not all fever means pancreatic issues, you should get it checked if it persists.

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Chills often tag along with a fever, especially when your body is trying to raise its temperature to fight off whatever is causing the inflammation or infection. If you are feeling feverish and chilled out, and you have some serious belly pain, you should get checked out by a doctor. Acute pancreatitis needs quick treatment.

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Rapid Pulse

A rapid pulse, or an increased heart rate, is a common symptom of pancreatitis, which is the inflammation of the pancreas. When the pancreas is inflamed, the body’s response to the stress and inflammation can cause the heart to beat faster than usual. The heart rate can go up to 100 and 140 beats per minute.

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Swollen Abdomen

The inflammation can cause fluid to build up in the abdominal cavity, leading to swelling of the abdomen. This fluid accumulation can be uncomfortable and may cause the abdomen to feel tight. The swelling is a result of the body’s response to the inflammation as it tries to protect and heal the affected area.

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Feeling constantly tired, like you cannot shake off the exhaustion even with rest? That is a common issue with chronic pancreatic problems like pancreatitis or pancreatic cancer. Your body is busy fighting inflammation and not absorbing nutrients right because of the unreliable pancreas, and that can leave you feeling drained all the time.

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Loss of Appetite

Not feeling hungry? That can happen when your pancreas is malfunctioning. You might have a bellyache or other digestive troubles that make eating the last thing you want to do. It is this lack of appetite that can lead to dropping pounds without trying and not getting enough nutrients.

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Dark Urine

Dark urine can occur when the bile duct is blocked, preventing bile from flowing from the liver to the intestines. The kidneys filter this excess bilirubin into the urine, giving it a darker color than normal. The urine appears brown or tea-colored, indicating that there is a problem with bile flow.

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Itchy Skin

Itchy skin, also known as pruritus, can occur when bile salts accumulate in the skin. That could be because of bile salts building up. Bile salts help break down fats in your food, but if they start piling up in your blood, they can end up in your skin and cause itchiness.

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Blood Clots

Blood clots can be a serious complication with pancreatic issues. These disorders can up the risk of getting blood clots in your veins. This condition is commonly called venous thromboembolism. These clots can make your legs swell, hurt, and turn red. It is a serious issue that needs medical attention.

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Hiccups and coughing can sometimes be indirect symptoms of pancreatic disorders. Although they are not direct signs of the disease, they can occur when the inflamed pancreas puts pressure on surrounding nerves or organs. For example, if pancreatic inflammation presses on the diaphragm or nerves that control the diaphragm, it can trigger persistent hiccups.

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Back Pain

Back pain, particularly in the middle or lower back, can be a symptom associated with disorders of the pancreas. This pain can be persistent and may not be linked to any injury or strain. The discomfort can range from a dull ache to severe, sharp pain and may become more intense after eating or lying down.

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Breathing Issues

Shortness of breath can be a sign of a pancreatic disorder, although it is not a common symptom. Pancreatic disorders can lead to the accumulation of fluid in the abdomen (ascites) or around the lungs (pleural effusion). Pancreatic disorder can lead to anemia, causing shortness of breath because the body does not get enough oxygen.

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Elevated Blood Sugar Levels

Elevated blood sugar levels can be a sign that the pancreas is not functioning properly. The pancreas is responsible for producing insulin, a hormone that helps regulate blood sugar levels. When the pancreas is inflamed, like in pancreatitis, or affected by a disorder, its ability to produce insulin can be reduced.


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