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What Causes a Fatty Pancreas?

Eating fatty foods like french fries can lead to a fatty pancreas.
Consuming alcohol and processed foods can cause a fatty pancreas.
Certain diseases may cause a fatty pancreas, including hepatitis C.
The pancreas is a pear shaped organ that is found deep in the abdomen.
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  • Written By: Erin J. Hill
  • Edited By: Bronwyn Harris
  • Last Modified Date: 19 October 2014
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There are several causes of a fatty pancreas, including obesity, alcohol use, and disease. Eating foods high in fat can lead to fatty infiltration around the pancreas and other organs in the body. This can also be caused by substances like alcohol which cause the pancreas to metabolize fats less efficiently, resulting in buildup.

Symptoms of a fatty pancreas may be vague at first, but can include nausea, vomiting, smelly stools, diarrhea, loss of appetite, back or abdominal pain, and spots on the pancreas during an ultrasound or another exam. These symptoms mimic those of other disorders. In most cases, this condition occurs as part of aging and does not cause serious problems. When it becomes severe, however, it may cause inflammation and cause the pancreas to work less efficiently.

Eating a diet high in fats and processed foods is one risk factor for fatty pancreas. Studies have shown that those who are overweight or obese have a much higher likelihood of suffering from pancreas issues than those who are at a healthy weight. Many times, losing weight and cutting out unhealthy foods from the diet is all that is needed to remove fatty infiltration from the organ.

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People who drink excessive amounts of alcohol are also at an increased risk for fatty pancreas. Alcohol consumption changes the way the body metabolizes food and may cause inflammation of the pancreas over time. Sometimes abstaining from alcohol will take care of the problem, but this depends on the amount of damage already done. Irreversible damage may have already been inflicted.

Certain diseases may also contribute to fat around the pancreas, including hepatitis C. Treatment may vary based on the condition, or medications may be used to supplement pancreas function. This may include digestive aids to help break down food and injections of insulin, which is secreted by the pancreas.

Those with any symptoms of a pancreatic disorder should seek medical help right away. Although the symptoms may be indicative of any number of minor illnesses, sometimes a serious condition is the cause. Fatty pancreas shares some symptoms with liver problems and pancreatic cancer. Cancer of the pancreas is usually aggressive and needs to be caught early for optimum treatment options.

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bgpJFH
Post 9

My ultrasound just came back with "more fatty pancreas than normal; probably due to diabetes." I am not diabetic, but run low blood sugars (old normal was 50-70, new 80-90 after years of Precose then Glyset used to slow absorption of carbohydrates in gut to prevent blood sugar spikes).

My complaint that prompted the ultrasound was a pressure just inside my lower right rib margin that feels like I am 7 1/2 months pregnant with child pushing foot into the underside of my right rib cage margin. This pressure has been present since May 2013, getting exacerbated mostly with bending/leaning over sink when brushing teeth or washing face as apposed to bending to weed gardens. Meals or different types of foods do not alter this pressure.

I have had an abd CT, MRI, endoscopy, colonoscopy, and now the ultrasound. All other tests came back with normal, with healthy results. The pressure has continued for four months now. I am 56 years old and had a hysterectomy at age 39-ish, 5' 4 1/2", 137 pounds. My gall bladder was removed at age 37, appendix at 16. My blood pressure is normal, activity normal. The only other health conditions I have are treated hypothyroid, allergies, and keratoconus for 1 1/2 years; CXL in January.

anon333881
Post 8

I have a very severe fatty pancreas. The CT showed nobody at Vanderbilt had ever seen anything like it. They ran all the other tests for diseases and came back with obesity. I had the lap band eroded into my stomach and had it removed. Other than obesity and not eating right, do you think my lap band erosion had anything to do with it? Please help. I take the digestive enzyme creon to digest my food. Will this make my pancreas finally give out? You have to replace it if it does. Other than just a low fat diet, what else should I eat?

anon327573
Post 7

I do have a severe fatty pancreas and also a family history of pancreatic cancer. My brother has Adenocarcinoma and is terminal. I was told this could be hereditary and Metabolic Syndrome. Due to the family history, I have to be tested again next year for cancer. The doctor found the fatty pancreas from an EUS. He said it was the worse he had seen! So I am trying harder to eat healthy, which I have, along with losing more weight. I have excellent lipids. So does anyone else know more about this because even the Genetic Study in Dallas never heard of this?

anon221879
Post 5

I was suffering from abdominal pain, and we suspected gall bladder stones. But my USG showed fatty infiltration of pancreas and a mild focal caliectasis of left kidney. we usually ignore the pancreas but through this site I learned how important it is for the healthy functioning of our body.

discographer
Post 4

@anamur-- CT stands for computed tomography. I'm not an expert but I believe it is used to measure fat.

The ultrasound is probably used to identify fattening first and then a CT to confirm it and measure it.

My sister had a CT done, not for pancreas but for her abdomen. It's a pretty common test.

serenesurface
Post 3

I heard that "CT" is the best test for checking the pancreas for fatty infiltration. What is "CT"? Why is an ultrasound not good enough?

bear78
Post 2

Can a fatty pancreas also result in diabetes and digestive problems?

I am wondering because a friend of mine has been diagnosed with it. She is also a diabetic, is a bit overweight (not obese) and she has gastritis as well.

From what I've read, pancreas helps with digestion and, this article mentions it too, it releases insulin. So, if it becomes fatty, there will be pancreas problems, like not releasing enough insulin and digestive juices right?

anon175428
Post 1

This is the first site that i found that actually talked about fatty pancreas not fatty liver. I did find the information helpful. Thank you.

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