What is pancreatitis? Popular DJ Avicii, 28, dies after years of health problems

Elise Solé
Swedish DJ Avicii has died at age 28, after a history of acute pancreatitis. (Photo: Getty Images)

Swedish DJ Avicii has died at age 28, after suffering from health problems including acute pancreatitis.

“It is with profound sorrow that we announce the loss of Tim Bergling, also known as Avicii,” publicist Diana Baron said in a statement, according to Variety. “He was found dead in Muscat, Oman this Friday afternoon local time, April 20th. The family is devastated and we ask everyone to please respect their need for privacy in this difficult time. No further statements will be given.”

Avicii’s cause of death is unclear, but prior health issues forced him to take a break from music in 2014. That September, the Stockholm native canceled a slew of tours and appearances due to surgeries to remove his gallbladder and appendix.

“Since my operation, I’d just been going and going,” Avicii told Billboard in 2014. “I was dropping weight. I needed to take a break.”

Swedish DJ Avicii has died, after a history of health problems including pancreatitis. (Photo: Getty Images)

The site reported that back in January 2012 the DJ was hospitalized for 11 days with acute pancreatitis, reportedly due to excessive drinking. In March 2013, Avicii’s condition resurfaced, and although doctors advising to remove his gallbladder, he refused, due to his heavy work schedule. Although Avicii stopped drinking in March 2014, his appendix burst. The event caused the DJ to agree to remove his gallbladder, but he maintained the hectic pace of his work.

“I took a month off, but it wasn’t really a month off,” he told Billboard. “I was in the studio 12 hours a day, and then went right back to touring. It’s hard to say no in this industry. You want to play everything and be everywhere.”

Avicii ultimately retired in 2016, telling The Hollywood Reporter of his decision. “This was obviously the hardest decision of my life so far. But so far it has paid off tremendously in terms of well-being for me. I’m happier than I have been in a very very long time. Stress-free more than I have been in a very long time. I can’t say I’m never going to have a show again. I just don’t think I’m going to go back to the touring life.”

So what is pancreatitis? The condition occurs when the pancreas, the organ that aids digestion and glucose production, becomes inflamed, causing abdominal pain and vomiting. “The purpose of the pancreas is to secrete enzymes to help us digest food,” Allison Mayoral, patient central manager at the Pancreatic Cancer Action Network, tells Yahoo Lifestyle. “However, when the enzymes become active inside the pancreas before reaching the small intestine, it can damage the cells and cause inflammation.”

The condition is considered acute when it flares up suddenly and lasts for days, according to the Mayo Clinic. Pancreatitis can resolve itself on its own, but in more severe cases, it can cause diabetes and digestive problems, as well as increase the risk of pancreatic cancer. It can also be fatal. “About 20 percent of cases are severe, and if the pancreas bleeds, it can lead to shock,” says Mayoral. 

Aside from a family history of pancreatitis, alcoholism, cigarette smoking, gallstones, and injury can also trigger the condition. “The pancreas metabolizes alcohol, but too much can damage cells, making a person predisposed to pancreatitis,” says Mayoral. “It takes about five to 10 years of heavy drinking to have an effect.” 

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