Digestive fluids (enzymes) travel through the pancreas to the small intestine and activate to help digest food. If they activate before leaving the pancreas, it can become irritated and inflamed, a condition called pancreatitis.
There are two types of pancreatitis: acute and chronic. Acute pancreatitis happens suddenly and lasts for days. Chronic pancreatitis happens over years and causes scarring and loss of normal pancreas function. It can lead to problems with digestion, or diabetes. Acute pancreatitis can turn into chronic pancreatitis. In severe cases, it can be life-threatening.