The pancreas is a gland between your stomach and spine. Since the gland is not easy to feel, you may not know if you have pancreas issues, such as tumors, until they are larger or cause problems.
The pancreas has ducts running in and out of it to move fluids that are important for digestion. These ducts include the pancreatic duct and bile duct.
Role in Digestion
The pancreas is an important part of your digestive system. Food you eat goes from your mouth to your esophagus to your stomach and to the first part of your small intestine (duodenum). In the small intestine, fluids enter from the pancreatic and bile ducts to help with digestion.
Fluid from the bile ducts is called bile. It helps to digest fats. Bile is produced in the liver and travels through the bile ducts to the gallbladder and pancreas. The bile ducts and pancreatic duct (which carries pancreatic fluid) meet in the pancreas and empty into the small intestine.
Role in Blood Sugar
The pancreas produces hormones that control your blood sugar. When the pancreas doesn’t work the way it should, you can develop diabetes.
- Type 1 diabetes means your immune system has attacked your pancreas and caused it to stop making insulin.
- Type 2 diabetes means your pancreas can no longer make enough insulin to respond to the food you eat.
Pancreas problems include:
- Pancreatitis – Inflammation from digestive enzymes activating in the pancreas
- Pancreatic cancer
- Cystic fibrosis – Genetic disorder that blocks the ducts in the pancreas
- Endocrine tumors – Masses in the endocrine system which includes the thyroid, adrenal, pancreas, parathyroid and pituitary glands
- Pancreatic cysts
- Type 1 diabetes
- Type 2 diabetes
- Enlarged pancreas
Bile Duct Problems
Bile duct problems include:
- Gallstones – Stones created by hardened digestive fluids
- Cholecystitis – Inflammation of the gallbladder caused by a blocked gallstone
- Blocked bile ducts – Can occur from infection, cancer or scarring
- Biliary artesia – Rare disease more common in children
- Bile duct cancer (cholangiocarcinoma)
- Primary sclerosing cholangitis – Progressive disease that leads to liver damage and liver failure
- Jaundice – Yellowing of the skin and eyes
- Bile duct (biliary) stricture – A narrowing of the bile duct
- Bile duct leaks
Our gastroenterology specialists are experienced in treating every condition of the pancreas and bile duct.