Type 2 Diabetes – Do Anti-Diabetic Medications Help Prevent or Treat Pancreatitis?

Pancreatitis is an inflammation of the pancreas, the organ responsible for making insulin, glucagon and some digestive enzymes. It leads to the release of digestive juices into the abdomen. Each attack causes further permanent injury to the pancreas, and eventually it becomes so damaged it cannot produce pancreatic juice nor the hormones insulin and glucagon. At this stage, the person will develop diabetes, and in addition to treatment with insulin, they are likely to require replacement pancreatic enzymes to allow the normal digestion of food.

The following study looked at pancreatitis in both diabetics and non-diabetics:

Researchers in the School of Medicine and Department of Family Medicine at China Medical University and Hospital in Taiwan, compared the incidence of pancreatitis in diabetic and non-diabetic study participants. Their aim was to measure the risk of pancreatitis in diabetics and discover whether anti-diabetic medications could help to prevent pancreatitis. Their results were published in the American Journal of Gastroenterology in May 2011.

Nineteen thousand five hundred and eighteen(19,518) people treated for diabetes and 78,072 adults without diabetes, were included in the study and actually followed for a period of three years. The participants who had diabetes had almost twice the risk of having pancreatitis as non-diabetic participants. It is true

  • alcoholism,
  • hepatitis C infection, and
  • gallstones

are all associated with an increased risk of pancreatitis. The good news is it was found the people taking anti-diabetic medications had a lower risk of pancreatitis than the people who were not taking drugs for their Type 2 diabetes. And what’s more, the risk of developing pancreatitis decreased the longer they were being treated with anti-diabetic drugs.

Most cases of pancreatitis are associated with alcoholism, and acute cases can be seen just after binge drinking. Other causes include:

  • mumps,
  • coxsackie virus,
  • Reyes syndrome,
  • autoimmunity (the immune system’s attack on the pancreas),
  • cystic fibrosis,
  • hepatitis,
  • too much fat in the blood,
  • hyperparathyroidism, and
  • particular medications.

Signs and symptoms of pancreatitis include:

  • abdominal pain,
  • nausea,
  • vomiting,
  • yellowed skin and eyes,
  • weight loss,
  • diarrhea, and
  • clay-colored stools that float.

The pain can last for hours, days, or even longer, and is usually felt in the upper abdomen. It can radiate through to the back and tends to get worse with eating or drinking; particularly alcohol. The abdomen can enlarge with fluid and certain vitamins might not be absorbed.

When the condition is suspected there are several tests than can be used to diagnose it. A CT scan, ultrasound or magnetic resonance image can show abnormalities in the pancreas. Serum amylase is a blood test of an enzyme that can be elevated with pancreatitis.

It is treated with rest, pain medications, intravenous fluids, and stomach suctioning. Prevent having to go through that unpleasantness by avoiding more than one alcoholic beverage daily, eating a low-fat diet, avoiding viral illness and taking the medications that are prescribed for you.

Any condition which causes damage to the pancreas may lead to diabetes.