Although there have been cases of remission without rheumatoid arthritis treatment, these are not common. Most people with rheumatoid arthritis experience some progression of their disease during their lives.
But there are treatments that can help, and each person responds to the disease differently. What can you expect? That depends on many factors such as:
Last winter, after spending a few afternoons shoveling snow, Heather Miceli, 27, woke up in the middle of the night and couldn’t get out of bed. “My joints had swelled up so much that I couldn’t move without crying,” she says.
Two months later, the college professor at Johnson and Wales University in Providence, R.I., who had always been healthy, was diagnosed with rheumatoid arthritis (RA) -- a debilitating autoimmune disease that causes inflammation and swelling in the joints and surrounding tissues,...
How advanced your rheumatoid arthritis is at the time you are diagnosed
Your age at the time you are diagnosed
How "active" your disease is
Each person's rheumatoid arthritis is unique, and the disease affects each person differently. Over the long-term, though, there are a few common patterns.
Long remissions. Remission means near-disappearance of symptoms without an actual cure. About 5% to 10% of people diagnosed with rheumatoid arthritis have a sudden onset of the illness, but then have no symptoms for many years, even decades.
Intermittent symptoms. About 15% of people with rheumatoid arthritis have disease that waxes and wanes slowly. They have periods of low or no symptoms that can last months between flare-ups.
Progressive rheumatoid arthritis. Unfortunately, that leaves the majority of people, who have the most common and serious form of rheumatoid arthritis. Because it's progressive, it requires a long-term treatment plan and a coordinated medical team to manage the treatment and slow or stop progression.
How can you tell which kind of rheumatoid arthritis you have and whether it will progress? There is no easy way, but there are some general signs that suggest you might have the progressive form of rheumatoid arthritis. You might have progressive RA if you:
Have long duration or high intensity of disease activity (flares)
Were diagnosed at a young age, which means the rheumatoid arthritis has more time to become active in your body
Have rheumatoid nodules -- bumps under the skin that most often appear on the elbows
Have active inflammation that shows up in tests of joint fluid or in blood tests
Had a lot of damage already on X-rays when you were diagnosed
Have elevated blood tests for rheumatoid factor or citrulline antibody