The chronic inflammatory disorder rheumatoid arthritis (RA) affects the joint lining, causing painful swelling. Since there is not yet a permanent cure for the condition, the treatment goal is to put a patient’s RA into remission, where the symptoms are well controlled.
RA remission is more complicated than it seems, and there are many vital facts to know if you have RA.
1. Remission Doesn’t Mean “Without Symptoms”
The Arthritis Foundation defines remission as having limited symptoms of the condition. Since this definition can be subjective, researchers have developed criteria to use in clinical trials. These remission criteria include:
- Only one or fewer swollen joints
- Only one or fewer tender joints
- The patient assesses arthritis activity as a one or less on a 0–10 scale
- A blood test evaluating inflammation shows little to no inflammation
If any of these criteria aren’t met, a patient is not in remission.
2. Remission Can Last for Any Length of Time
Some patients with RA experience remission for a few weeks, and others for a year or longer. There is no guarantee that remission will last for a specific duration.
3. Early Treatment Increases Odds of Remission
While RA symptoms need to persist for six weeks for a doctor to diagnose the condition, the sooner the inflammation is controlled, the better your chances of achieving remission. Since inflammation from RA can cause long-term changes in the joints, patients need aggressive treatment to get the condition under control.
4. Following Your Treatment Plan Is Essential
Staying active, eating healthy, taking your medication as prescribed, and maintaining your scheduled doctor’s appointments to evaluate your health and adjust any dosages as needed is the best way to achieve remission.
5. Tapering Medication Requires Your Doctor
While some patients may be able to cut back on their medication while their RA is in remission, for others, that will cause a relapse. Medication adjustments require your doctor’s guidance to maintain control over your symptoms.
6. Relapses Are Unavoidable
Unfortunately, almost all patients who go into RA remission experience a relapse at some point. If you’ve experienced a flare-up after remission, schedule an appointment with your physician immediately so you can make any necessary adjustments to your treatment plan.