The pancreas is a vital organ that produces the digestive hormones insulin and glucagon and other enzymes necessary to digest food. Symptoms such as sweating and weight loss can accompany a number of diseases and conditions that affect the pancreas, including acute pancreatitis, chronic pancreatitis, pancreatic abscess and pancreatic cancer. Pancreatic diseases represent serious health threats and require immediate medical attention.
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Sweating and other symptoms such as pain, fever, nausea, vomiting, rapid breathing and an accelerated heart rate can indicate acute pancreatitis. This condition stems from numerous potential causes including gallstones, high levels of fats in the blood and prolonged exposure to certain drugs, including corticosteroids, antibiotics and nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, or NSAIDs. Treatment for acute pancreatitis involves a hospital stay during which foods and fluids are given intravenously to allow the pancreas time to heal.
Weight loss often accompanies chronic pancreatitis, even when eating habits do not change. In chronic pancreatitis, the organ often shuts down, which effectively shuts down digestion, so the body simply excretes all or most of the food you ingest. Pale, oily or clay-colored stools will result if this is the case. Treatment for chronic pancreatitis also involves a hospital stay – typically of longer duration – until the pancreas begins to function normally. In some cases surgery will be necessary to remove diseased parts of the pancreas.
A pancreatic abscess is a collection of pus that accumulates in the pancreas and becomes infected. Often pancreatic abscesses occur as a complication of pancreatitis. Sweating, fever, chills and stomach pain will be the primary symptoms, as well as nausea and vomiting. Pancreatic abscesses are extremely serious; they typically require surgery to drain the pus. Untreated, the mortality rate associated with pancreatic abscesses is exceedingly high.
Sweating, especially if occurs at night, sometimes indicates the presence of a cancerous tumor. Sweating at night coupled with unexplained weight loss may indicate pancreatic cancer. Other symptoms may include pain in the upper quadrant of your stomach that radiates through into your back, jaundice and loss of appetite. If any of these symptoms apply, see your doctor or health care practitioner right away.
REFERENCES & RESOURCES
- University of Maryland Medical Center: Pancreatitis; Steven D. Ehrlich, N.M.D.; August 2008
- Pub Med Health: Acute Pancreatitis; David C. Dugdale, III, M.D., et al.; January 2010
- Pub Med Health: Chronic Pancreatitis; George F. Longstreth, M.D., et al.; January 2010
- Pub Med Health: Pancreatic Abscess; David C. Dugdale, III, M.D., et al.; January 2010
- National Cancer Institute: Cancer of the Pancreas; July 2010