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Autoimmune Pancreatitis Symptoms

Autoimmune Pancreatitis Symptoms

Autoimmune pancreatitis is a chronic form of inflammation of pancreas which is relatively rare as compared to its other forms. This article would help you understand about the symptoms of this condition so that you can identify them as soon as possible, and get appropriate treatment on time.
Shalu Bhatti
Autoimmune pancreatitis (AIP) is an unusual inflammatory condition that occurs because the immune system mistakenly ends up attacking the pancreas, causing inflammation which can not only affect the pancreas, but other areas including the kidneys, liver, lungs, salivary glands, and lymph nodes. AIP is very rare and accounts for roughly 5-6% of the cases of chronic pancreatitis. Also, this condition is observed to be more in males as compared to females. Recent reports also suggest that AIP is more prevalent in countries like Japan, Europe, Korea, and even the United States of America.
Symptoms of Autoimmune Pancreatitis
The symptoms, as well as the imaging results indicate the presence of inflammation and pancreatic masses or tumors in the pancreas and other organs of the body. Abnormal narrowing of the main pancreatic duct and the intrapancreatic bile duct may also be observed in the imaging studies. Which is why, lack of proper diagnosis can also misinterpret AIP to that of pancreatic cancer. This condition usually affects people that fall within the age group of 50-60, however, it can also affect people in their early 30s. On the other hand, researchers have also found out a type of autoimmune pancreatitis, known as type 2 autoimmune pancreatitis which can also affect kids at an age as young as 12 years. Let us have a look at the symptoms of this condition, and why they occur.

Things You Should Know

►Autoimmune Pancreatitis (AIP) is a newly recognized rare condition, the first case being diagnosed in 1995 in Japan. Before that, pancreatitis was associated exclusively with alcoholism.

►AIP is usually misdiagnosed as pancreatic cancer, causing many patients to go through unnecessary surgery and chemotherapy.

►AIP is also known as IgG 4 systemic disease, and is a chronic inflammation of the pancreas due to the attack of the body's own immune system.

►The symptoms of AIP are very similar to pancreatic cancer; they include - - abdominal pain, weight loss, nausea, and elevated levels of antibodies. Though this condition is chronic, it can be treated with steroids.
☛ Jaundice

Most of the patients with AIP tend to suffer from progressive jaundice. Symptoms would include yellowish skin, the eye whites getting a yellow tinge and dark-colored urine. Even the bruises may seem to appear yellowish in color. This usually happens due to the presence of excess bilirubin in the body. In most of the cases, there is no pain in the abdomen, or, the nature of pain is very mild.
☛ Weight Loss

Unexplained weight loss could be a sign of autoimmune pancreatitis. In fact, the weight loss can be very rapid wherein a person may end up losing 10-12 lbs, or more, within a week or two. The weight loss is associated with the loss of appetite. Pancreas secrete insulin which is necessary for digestion. The impairment in the digestion process can also be associated with losing weight.
☛ Elevated Autoantibodies

Autoimmune pancreatitis leads to elevated levels of total lgG, serum lgG4, alkaline phosphatase, and serum autoantibodies. The elevated levels of serum lgG4 play an important role in the diagnosis of AIP, and is found in 63% - 94% of the AIP patients. Autoantibodies including antilactoferrin antibodies, anti-carbonic anhydrase II antibodies, rheumatoid factor, and antinuclear antibody (ANA), are also elevated to a certain extent. Along with that, there will be an increase in the levels of gamma globulins and blood sugar. A blood test or a biopsy test will enable the findings of the increased quantities of these in the body.
☛ Presence of Other Medical Conditions

The occurrence of AIP can also be a consequence of other autoimmune conditions including inflammatory bowel disease, hypothyroidism, sarcoidosis, primary biliary cirrhosis, and Sjogren's syndrome. People who develop AIP may be at a risk of developing diabetes mellitus. Rheumatoid arthritis is also associated with AIP. When AIP occurs due to an autoimmune disorder, experts refer to it as Secondary AIP or Syndromic AIP.
☛ Other Signs and Symptoms

Autoimmune pancreatitis is a chronic form of pancreatitis which is why symptoms develop gradually. While acute pancreatitis is marked by rapid onset of severe symptoms, AIP patients are less likely to experience the same. However, a person suffering from AIP may experience mild abdominal pain and tenderness, along with discomfort in the abdomen. Symptoms like internal bleeding, dehydration and nausea may also appear.
The diagnosis and treatment of this condition becomes quite a challenge for the doctors considering that its symptoms are very similar to that of pancreatic cancer, and that it is also very rare in nature. Various blood tests, imaging tests and biopsy procedures are done to check on the condition of the pancreas and the elevated autoantibodies and enzymes. A biopsy helps to study the tissues of the pancreas for the presence of cancer. However, the good news is that unlike cancer, autoimmune pancreatitis can be treated with corticosteroids, especially if diagnosed at an early stage. Although, it is important to note that the treatment may take at least 3 months, and that the symptoms can reappear from time to time. This is the reason why regular monitoring of the symptoms, and regular medical check ups are a must to deal with this condition.
Disclaimer:This HealthHearty article is for informative purposes only, and should not be used as a replacement for expert medical advice.