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2 Functions of the Pancreas and Problems It Can Face

By    |   Thursday, 05 May 2016 05:30 PM

The pancreas consists of two glands that function together as one organ. Cells from the pancreas help with digestion and also release hormones into the bloodstream.

There are two main functions of the pancreas, which is located behind the stomach, but those functions could be disrupted if problems arise.

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The majority of the functional components in the pancreas come from exocrine cells that produce enzymes for the digestion of food, according to Johns Hopkins University. The enzymes form the main duct of the pancreas. Fluid from the exocrine cells is drained into the duodenum, which is the first portion of the small intestine.

The stomach partially digests food with digestive acids before moving the material into the first part of the small intestine. Enzymes from the pancreas and bile from the liver work to further digest food before it enters into the large intestine to complete the digestive process.

The second function of the pancreas involves the endocrine pancreas, composed of small cells called the islets of Langerhans. Cells from the endocrine pancreas release hormones in the blood. These hormones include insulin and glucagen, which help to control blood sugar, or glucose, levels in the bloodstream. Insulin lowers levels and glucagon raises levels.

In this way, the pancreas works to help with the function of other key organs, including the liver, kidneys and brain, according to the Columbia University Department of Surgery.

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Function of the pancreas can become disrupted when pancreatic enzymes irritate the organ’s cells. This results in pancreatitis, an inflammation of the pancreas.

While enzymes in the pancreas normally help with digestion by remaining inactive until reaching the small intestine, these enzymes become active while still in the pancreas. The resulting inflammation may cause acute pancreatitis. Repeated damage can lead to chronic pancreatitis, causing poor function of the organ, digestive problems, and diabetes, according to the Mayo Clinic.

Pancreatitis has many causes, such as abdominal surgery, certain medications, alcoholism, cigarette smoking, infection, and family history. Fasting, medication, and IV fluids are used in treatment along with addressing the underlying causes.

Pancreatic lesions, endocrine tumors, and exocrine tumors in the cells lining the pancreatic duct may interfere with the function of the pancreas and contribute to pancreatic cancer. The cause of pancreatic cancer is unknown, but family history, chronic pancreatitis and cigarette smoking may be factors, according to Columbia University.

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The pancreas consists of two glands that function together as one organ. Cells from the pancreas help with digestion and also release hormones into the bloodstream.
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Thursday, 05 May 2016 05:30 PM
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