Rheumatoid arthritis is generally considered a chronic, lifelong condition. However, new treatments sometimes lead to dramatic improvements in the signs and symptoms of the condition. They can even prevent joint damage and lead to remission.

Doctors and people living with RA may both have remission as a goal. But they might not agree on exactly what remission means and what it looks like. You may think of remission as freedom from symptoms, while your doctor will follow a more technical medical definition.

Read on to get the facts about RA remission and the treatment approaches that make remission more likely.

A 2014 survey of people with RA shows this difference in perception. Only 13 percent understood remission as meeting a medical definition that measured disease activity. Instead, 50 percent said remission was the point of being “symptom free,” and 48 percent describe remission as “pain free.”

Understanding that the medical definition of remission can differ from your personal perception may help you stay on track with your treatment plan. Even if you’re feeling better, symptom improvement alone doesn’t mean you’re in remission. You shouldn’t stop taking your medication without talking to your doctor.

Many people experience RA remission

Because remission is hard to define, it’s also hard to know how many people actually experience remission. Even when remission is defined by the clinical criteria, studies use different timelines to measure rates. That makes it even harder to know how often it happens and for how long.