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Health A-Z

Medical Content Created by the Faculty of the
Harvard Medical School

Symptoms

The most common symptom of acute pancreatitis is upper abdominal pain. It can range from tolerable to severe.

The pain usually occurs in the middle of the body, just under the ribs. But it is sometimes felt on either the left or right side. This is a steady, drilling or "boring" pain. It can radiate to the back, flank, chest or lower abdomen.

Pain reaches a maximum intensity quickly, often within 30 minutes. In alcohol-induced pancreatitis, the pain tends to begin one to three days after a binge.

It may be difficult to find a comfortable position. Bending over or lying on your side may reduce the pain. Eating usually makes the pain worse.

Other symptoms of acute pancreatitis include:

  • Nausea and vomiting

  • Loss of appetite

  • Abdominal bloating

In severe cases, fever, difficulty breathing, weakness and shock may develop.

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From Health A-Z, Harvard Health Publications. Copyright 2007 by the President and Fellows of Harvard College. All rights reserved. Written permission is required to reproduce, in any manner, in whole or in part, the material contained herein. To make a reprint request, contact Harvard Health Publications. Used with permission of StayWell.

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