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Medical History and Physical Exam for Pancreatitis

Your doctor will ask you questions about your medical history and do a physical exam before diagnosing pancreatitis.

Medical history

Your doctor will ask you about your symptoms, overall health, behaviors, and medical history.

  • Where is the pain, and what does it feel like?
  • Have you been vomiting or feeling nauseated?
  • Do the symptoms occur after drinking alcohol or eating?
  • Does sitting up or leaning forward reduce the pain?
  • Have you had similar symptoms before?
  • What antibiotics or other medicines are you taking?
  • Do you have a family history of gallstone problems?
  • Have you ever had peptic ulcer disease?
  • Do you drink large amounts of alcohol frequently?
  • Do you have cystic fibrosis?

Physical exam

Your doctor will examine you for the following signs of pancreatitis.

  • Your upper abdomen may be tender.
  • You may look very ill. (This may be a sign of severe pancreatitis. In mild disease, people may not appear sick.)
  • Your pulse may be fast (100 to 150 beats per minute).
  • Your breathing may be shallow.
  • Your skin may be yellow (jaundice), indicating possible blockage of the bile duct.
  • Purple patches may appear on your abdomen or low back, a sign that fluid has leaked from pancreatic tissues because of inflammation.
  • Your liver may be enlarged if pancreatitis is caused by alcohol abuse.
By Healthwise Staff
Primary Medical Reviewer Kathleen Romito, MD - Family Medicine
Specialist Medical Reviewer Peter J. Kahrilas, MD - Gastroenterology
Last Revised May 25, 2011

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