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Acute pancreatitis manifests itself abruptly in the form of very intense abdominal pain in the region of the stomach, often radiating to the back in the form of a belt. It is usually accompanied by nausea, vomiting and intolerance to oral intake. Fever is usually associated if the bile duct is infected (cholangitis). When mild, the pain subsides in a few days. Sometimes, the patient progresses poorly and may develop any of various organ failures (e.g. kidney, lung or the vascular system); this is a serious situation with high mortality. There may be local complications, such as abdominal collections that cause pain or become infected and cause fever.
In chronic pancreatitis, abdominal pain is the most frequent and disabling symptom, which can be continuous, intermittent or become recurrent pancreatitis. The pain is located in the epigastrium and radiates in the form of a belt. Chronic diarrhoea and low weight are characteristic symptoms and are due to loss of exocrine pancreatic function. Diabetes mellitus can appear in late stages.
Frequent complications include malnutrition, osteoporosis, obstructive jaundice, pancreatic ascites, pancreatic pseudocysts and their complications (pain, infection, fistula, rupture, haemorrhage, thrombosis and compression of other organs). Sometimes, chronic pancreatitis is asymptomatic.
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