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What Does 'Remission' Mean to Me?

Last updated: April 2019

Does remission apply to autoimmune diseases?

The definition of remission is “a temporary or permanent decrease or subsidence of manifestations of a disease”.

No symptoms? No need for meds? It sounds like something I’ll never achieve, a pipe dream, if you will. I am on medications, I have the symptoms and my condition dictates my everyday life.

I can’t be in remission, especially when I think of the textbook definition. It sounds pretty concrete. For example, you have cancer or you don’t and if you don’t have it then you’re in remission, right?

But, I have learned that autoimmune conditions are not text-book because sometimes the hard facts show disease activity while clinical symptoms are low or vice versa. Or, the symptoms don’t truly line up with any one rheumatic disease!

Re-evaluating RA remission

I’ve had to re-evaluate my definition of sick and along with it, remission. It may not mean a total absence of the disease. It might mean I’m managing my condition well enough I don’t think about it all. the. time. Maybe it means I am just on maintenance drugs and the symptoms are on the back-burner and not full frontal all. the. time.

If I was thinking about remission in those terms, maybe I was in it…for a short period of time.

How do I know? I certainly had the symptoms and the medications to prove them. It wasn’t just about management. I am happy to say, my condition has been well-managed for a couple of years now. There was something different about this last year; small things, sure, but they added up to something huge: possible remission!

First, my steroid use. I have been on Prednisone since my diagnosis nine years ago. I’ve taken as high as 20mg during flares and as low as 8 for maintenance. 8 is great, 8 is beautiful but it’s not low enough. I tried, fruitlessly, for years to lower to 7mg but it was like I hit a brick wall. Each time I went down that measly 1mg my body revolted and I ended up in a total chaotic flare.

Things changed last Fall when one day it just clicked. My body tolerated the 7mg. I alternated 7 and 8mg (please always check with your doctor to make sure this is a possible option for you) and nothing happened. I pressed my luck and took 7mg multiple days in a row and I felt the same!

I did it! And, I didn’t have to increase my pain medications to compensate. I was plain old stable on a lower steroid dose.

And, then, there was one thing that really struck me. My fatigue was GONE. G-O-N-E, gone! I wasn’t tired! Fatigue has become my best friend since my RD flared and because of it I slept through my 20s. Life without this constant lethargy was a) unfamiliar and b) very noticeable! I wasn’t napping during the day and I was sleeping okay at night (read: better than usual). I didn’t have mounds of extra energy but I was getting through a day without wanting to curl up in a ball on the floor.

I know it really doesn’t sound like remission since I was still on the Methotrexate and on the pain medication; I still saw my rheumatologist regularly but it didn’t feel like the Rheumatoid Disease was dictating my life. For a spell, I rarely thought about it and for me, that sounds like the closest to “absence” as I’m ever going to get.

What do you think? Did I experience remission or just a good, well-managed period. I want to hear your opinion!

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This article represents the opinions, thoughts, and experiences of the author; none of this content has been paid for by any advertiser. The RheumatoidArthritis.net team does not recommend or endorse any products or treatments discussed herein. Learn more about how we maintain editorial integrity here.

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