Rheumatoid arthritis is generally considered a chronic lifelong disease. However new treatments sometimes lead to significant improvements in symptoms and signs. They can even prevent joint damage and lead to relief.
Remission may be the goal for both physicians and RA patients. But they may not be able to agree on exactly what relief means and what it looks like. You might think remission is symptom-free and your doctor will follow a more technical medical definition.
Read on to learn the facts about RA remission and treatments that make remission more likely.
The American College of Rheumatology (ACR) has complex guidelines for defining remission in RA. The guidelines look at many different digital markers to measure the effects of RA in the body. This includes disease activity hidden from people diagnosed with RA.
Essentially you may feel like your RA is in remission but your doctor can evaluate these numbers along with X-rays and other imaging studies and determine that you are not technically in remission.
A 2014 survey of RA patients showed this cognitive disparity. Only 13% understood remission as meeting the medical definition of measuring disease activity. Conversely 50% said remission was the key to being “asymptomatic,” and 48% described remission as “Painless.”
Knowing that the medical definition of remission may differ from your personal perception may help you stick to your treatment plan. Even if you feel your symptoms improve alone doesn’t mean you’re in remission. you should not stop taking your Medications can be administered without talking to a doctor.
Because remission is difficult to define it is also difficult to know how many people actually experience remission. Even though clinical criteria define remission studies use different timelines to measure rates. This makes it harder to know how often and for how long it happens.
A 2017 review of RA remission studies found remission rates ranged from 5% to 45% by standard criteria. However there is no standard time period to define remission. To better understand future data review recommends setting criteria for low disease duration Activity must continue to be eligible for remission.
Those numbers don’t seem encouraging. But it may be helpful to remember that people often define remission differently than their doctors. Some people may experience long periods of time without symptoms even if they are not technically considered to be in remission. experience this improvement For some people quality of life and freedom from pain may be more important than meeting technical definitions.
A 2017 review noted that early intensive treatment approaches were associated with higher rates of durable remission. Researchers can discuss remission in terms of “early” versus “established” RA. One of the goals of early intervention is to start treatment before joint erosion According to the Arthritis Foundation.
Remission sometimes occurs even for those who have lived with RA for many years. However early and aggressive treatment may lead to better outcomes. Regardless of the stage of the disease it is important to stay in touch with your doctor about your treatment plan.
Medications are an important part of RA treatment but lifestyle may also play a role in the likelihood of remission. A 2018 study found that about 45 percent of people who received early RA intervention did not achieve remission within a year.
The study looked at which factors were the biggest predictors of an individual not going into remission. For women obesity was the strongest predictor of no remission in study participants within a year of starting treatment. For men smoking was the strongest predictor.
The researchers noted that prioritizing weight control and smoking cessation may lead to a rapid reduction in inflammation. This is one of the main goals of RA treatment. Overall this study suggests that overall health may contribute to the effectiveness of the treatment.
People with RA can go back and forth between remission and relapse. The reason is unclear.
During remission most RA patients continue to take medication to maintain remission. This is because tapering off the medication may lead to relapses.
The ultimate goal is to achieve drug-free sustained remission. Research is ongoing to find new therapeutic strategies to achieve this.
In some cases the medicine may stop working. This can also happen with biological products. The body produces antibodies that reduce the effectiveness of the drug. Even if treatment appears to be successful recurrence is still possible.
Physicians and RA patients may define remission in different ways. However their common goal is to reduce RA symptoms and progression. Early treatment is more likely to result in sustained remission. Sticking to your treatment plan is important to give yourself the best chance ease.