Early intervention is a factor in remission rates

The 2017 review notes that an early intensive treatment approach is associated with higher rates of lasting remission. Researchers may discuss remission in terms of “early” versus “established” RA. One goal of early interventions is to start treatment before joint erosion, according to the Arthritis Foundation.

Even for those who have lived with RA for years, remission can sometimes occur. Early and aggressive therapy, however, may lead to better outcomes. Regardless of disease stage, it’s important to stay engaged with your doctor about your treatment plan.

Lifestyle may play a role in remission rates

Medications are a vital component 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 get early RA intervention don’t achieve remission within one year.

The study looked at what factors are the biggest predictors that individuals won’t go into remission. For women, obesity was the strongest predictor that study participants wouldn’t go into remission within one year of starting treatment. For men, smoking was the strongest predictor.

The researchers noted that prioritizing weight management and stopping smoking might lead to rapid reduction in inflammation. This is one of the main goals of RA treatment. In general, the study suggests that overall health may contribute to how effectively a treatment works.

Relapse can follow remission

People living with RA can go back and forth between remission and relapse. The reasons are unclear.

During periods of remission, most people with RA continue taking medication to maintain remission. This is because tapering off medication could lead to a relapse.

The ultimate goal is to have a drug-free, sustained remission. Research is ongoing to find new treatment strategies to accomplish this goal.

In some cases, medications may stop working. This may happen with biologics as well. The body can create antibodies that reduce the effectiveness of medications. Even if a therapy appears to be working successfully, relapse is still possible.

The takeaway

Doctors and people living with RA may define remission in different ways. However, they share the goal of reducing RA symptoms and progression. Early treatment leads to a greater likelihood of sustained remission. Sticking with your treatment plan is important to give yourself the best chance at remission.

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