Autoimmune pancreatitis is a chronic inflammation thought to be caused by the body's immune system attacking the pancreas. The disease affects not only the pancreas, but also the bile ducts in the liver, as well as the salivary glands, kidneys and lymph nodes. One type of the disease mainly affects men in their 50s and 60s; a second type can occur in children as young as 12.

Autoimmune pancreatitis is a rare disease and can be mistakenly diagnosed as pancreatic cancer. Both conditions have similar signs and symptoms, but very different treatments, so it is crucial to distinguish one from another. Autoimmune pancreatitis is treated with steroids, which improve the condition in many people, often dramatically.

Jan. 12, 2012