Alcohol and acute or chronic pancreatitis
Understanding of the relation between the alcoholic consumption and the development of pancreatitis should help in defining the alcoholic etiology of pancreatitis.
Although the association between alcohol consumption and pancreatitis has been recognized for over 100 years, it remains still unclear why some alcoholics develop pancreatitis and some do not.
Surprisingly little data are available about alcohol amounts, drinking patterns, type of alcohol consumed and other habits such as dietary habits or smoking in respect to pancreatitis preceding the attack of acute pancreatitis or the time of the diagnosis of chronic pancreatitis.
This review summarizes the current knowledge. Epidemiological studies clearly show connection between the alcohol consumption in population and the development of acute and chronic pancreatitis.
In the individual level the risk to develop either acute or chronic pancreatitis increases along with the alcohol consumption. Moreover, the risk for recurrent acute pancreatitis after the first acute pancreatitis episode seems also to be highly dependent on the level of alcohol consumption.
Abstaining from alcohol may prohibit recurrent acute pancreatitis and reduce pain in chronic pancreatitis.
Therefore, all the attempts to decrease alcohol consumption after acute pancreatitis and even after the diagnosis of chronic pancreatitis should be encouraged.
Smoking seems to be a remarkable co-factor together with alcohol in the development of chronic pancreatitis, whereas no hard data are available for this association in acute pancreatitis.
Setting the limits for accepting the alcohol as the etiology cannot currently be based on published data, but rather on the ‘political’ agreement.