A pancreas that is swollen might or might not be an indication of the existence of a condition that is serious. The enlargement, or swelling of the pancreas is most frequently caused by an inflammation of the pancreas which is a condition referred to as pancreatitis. The growth of a tumor also can cause the pancreas to enlarge or swell, but inflammation is much more likely the cause. If a pancreas is swollen from pancreatitis it is more often only a situation that is temporary as this is a problem that frequently takes care or clears up itself.
The cause of a swollen and inflamed pancreas has threatening implications. Usually the enzymes that are freed by the pancreas do not activate until they enter the small intestines when they start the digesting of food.
But occasionally for unknown reasons, the enzymes might become active prior to leaving the pancreas and start to eat the pancreas itself. An attack of pancreatitis that is mild might cause only minor damage to this organ, but an acute or severe attack, or cases that are chronic can cause substantial damage to the pancreas over time.
Worse problems may occur if the pancreas becomes so damaged that a leak develops and enzymes carried by the blood system or other fluids in the body, begin attacking or digesting other organs.
The lungs and heart and other organs that are closer to the pancreas for instance the kidneys and liver might be affected. When the pancreas is damaged to the degree where production of enzymes is decreased, it can result in malnutrition as the food is being only digested partially.
If the capability to produce insulin is damaged, low levels of insulin can cause diabetes to start.