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What is Hereditary Pancreatitis?

Pancreatitis is a relatively common and potentially serious condition. Some of the causes of pancreatitis are known, for example excessive alcohol consumption and gallstones. However, in some individuals there is a clear tendancy for pancreatitis in two or more family members and this is usually genetically determined. This type of pancreatitis is known as Hereditary Pancreatitis (HP).


In other individuals where there is no clear family history the cause may still be genetic. This type of pancreatitis is called idiopathic pancreatitis.


Hereditary conditions are caused by changes in genes, the genetic 'blueprints' that makes the proteins of our body. There are a variety of genes that may cause pancreatitis. Some of these are known whereas others are yet to be discovered.


The known ones include the cationic trypsinogen (PRSS1) gene, the SPINK1 (or PSTI) gene, and the cystic fibrosis transmembrane conductance regulator (CFTR) gene. If you tested positive for the CFTR gene, this would NOT mean that you have got cystic fibrosis or that you are risk of developing it, but it MAY partly explain why you have pancreatitis.


HP diagram