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How can I tell if I have IBS or chronic pancreatitis

Posted by @just in Digestive Health, Feb 3, 2012

I have had different stomach pain for 30 years now. I have had my gall bladder removed. My doctor recently told me I have IBS. I think I have both IBS and chronic pancreatitis. Am concerned about not being treated completely and damaging my pancreas. Has anyone experienced chronic pancreatitis and if so, what were your symptoms? My upper stomach will hurt like crazy and almost feel hard. It is difficult to sit still when this happens. My heart rate will increase; and a new symptom now is a pain in my middle, right back a little below my shoulder blade. Sometimes the pain is enough to reduce me to tears. The major part of the pain will last 1-8 hours. When the pain subsides, I will have slighter pain in my abdomen that I describe feels like I have been punched over and over and I will be exhausted and these latter 2 symptoms will last about a day. I do have other, different symptoms, which my doctor is treating me for GERD and IBS, which I believe is correct; however, the pain I have described he is lumping into IBS as well and I am concerned it is chronic pancreatitis which has gone on for 30 years. Any advice? Thank you.


Posted by @nookers, May 31, 2012

Hi. I'm sorry that you are having so much pain. I think the most difficult part is not knowing exactly what is causing your symptoms. Once you get an answer to that, it is much easier to cope with the physical pain.

I have had chronic pancreatitis for at least 20 years. It started as a sharp pain in my right shoulder along with upper abdominal pain & bloating. I would resist going to a doctor or ER for so long that by the time I did go, my lab results were normal.This went on for about 10 years.

Finally I had an attack of pain & nausea too intense to postpone getting medical help pronto. My lab results were 3 or 4 times the norm. (Amylasen lipase, liver enzymes)
At that point I had my gallbladder removed by laproscopy. They found only 1 stone, but loads of thick sludge (they said the consistency of bubble gum)in the gall bladder.

Six pain-free months followed, and then out of the blue one morning an unbelievable abdominal pain radiating to my back & nausea struck. My husband dragged me to the ER where my lab results were off the charts. An ERCP was done, where they found I had pancreas divisum. (I have only a small portion of a pancreatic duct, which normally runs the length of the pancreas to enable drainage of the digestive enzymes produced by the pancreas. Drainage was blocked so, in effect, my pancreas was digesting itself. OUCH!!)

Have your doctors done any lab work soon after the onset of your pain? Have you had a pipida scan (ultrasound to detect gall stones)? Those tests might ease your mind about having pancreatitis. If your doctor is unable to give you answers to your questions, it may be time for a second opinion. Please let me know how things go for you. If I can help in any way, please let me know. Don't give up.

Be well,

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