Autoimmune pancreatitis is a rare condition in which the immune system attacks the healthy cell of the pancreas thereby causing inflammation of the pancreas.The pancreas produces insulin hormone which helps in the regulation of the blood glucose levels. It also produces digestive juice which aids digestion.
There are two types of autoimmune pancreatitis: Type 1 and Type 2. Type 1 is the most common type and it occurs when IgG4 antibodies and IgG4 producing immune cells attacks the pancreas. It is associated with high levels of this antibodies. Whereas, Type 2 occurs when the immune cells called neutrophils are found in the ducts of the pancreas. Their activity can cause damage to the pancreas.
The exact cause of autoimmune pancreatitis is not known. It may develop due to an initiating event such as bacteria infection or other autoimmune conditions such as Hashimoto’s thyroiditis, inflammatory bowel diseases, primary biliary cholangitis, retroperitoneal fibrosis, rheumatoid arthritis, sarcoidosis and sjögren’s syndrome.
Autoimmune pancreatitis does not always show symptoms in it’s early stage but as it progress, it can narrow the pancreas duct thereby preventing the release of enzymes. The symptoms include jaundice, upper abdominal pain, fatigue, loss of appetite, nausea and vomiting, dark urine, weight loss, diarrhea, middle back pain and pale coloured stool.
The complications of Autoimmune pancreatitis are enlargement of the pancreas, appearance of non cancerous growths in the pancreas, and diabetes.
The laboratory diagnosis of autoimmune pancreatitis involves the combination of blood tests such as IgG4 level, complete blood count, blood glucose, electrolytes, liver function tests, kidney function tests and biopsy.
Treatment involves biliary stenting, the use of medication and monitoring of other organ involvement.
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