HIV and pancreatitis


Patients infected with the human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) have an increased risk of developing pancreatitis, a severe inflammation of the pancreas. Pancreatitis occurs when the digestive enzymes in the organ become active too soon. Instead of becoming active in the intestines, they become active inside the pancreas, where they can cause organ damage.
The pancreas is located behind the stomach. It produces enzymes that are released into the small intestine to break down protein in food. The pancreas also produces insulin, a hormone that helps regulate the amount of sugar in the blood.
HIV patients may develop pancreatitis as a result of heavy alcohol consumption, gallstones that block a tube in the pancreas called the pancreatic duct, infections (such as mycobacterium avium complex), or medications, such as pentamidine (PentamĀ®)
Although HIV patients are more likely to develop pancreatitis than HIV-negative patients, it is still considered a rare condition. For instance, researchers from one study found that less than one percent of 976 HIV patients who were receiving anti-HIV drugs (antiretrovirals) developed the condition.
Treatment for pancreatitis depends on the underlying cause. Once the cause is treated, most patients experience a full recovery. However, if the condition is left untreated, scarring may occur in the organ. Once the organ becomes scarred, the condition cannot be reversed and the patient requires long-term treatment to manage the symptoms.

Related Terms

Acquired immune deficiency syndrome, acquired immunodeficiency syndrome, AIDS, antiretroviral therapy, antiretrovirals, ART, fusion inhibitor, gallbladder, gallstones, HAART, highly active antiretroviral therapy, HIV, human immunodeficiency virus, immune, immune defense system, immune system, immunocompromised, immunodeficiency, infection, inflammation, pancreas, pancreatic enzyme, protease inhibitor, viral infection, virus, weakened immune system, white blood cells.