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What are the treatment goals for rheumatoid arthritis (RA)?

The overall goal of treating rheumatoid arthritis is to halt or at least quiet and slow the disease while improving the patient's well-being. There is currently no cure for rheumatoid arthritis (RA), so the focus of treatment is to achieve one of the following:

True remission: In true remission, all of your symptoms (swelling, pain, fatigue) have gone, but you don't just feel better; x-rays show that the disease has been stopped. There is no new joint damage, and old damage is healing. You will still need to take medication -- rheumatoid arthritis never goes away completely -- but this is the best-case scenario. Early, aggressive treatment is your best shot at true remission.

Clinical remission: All of your symptoms are gone, but x-rays still show evidence of disease activity. New joint damage is still occurring and old damage is not healing. This is the second best treatment scenario.

Near remission: Near remission is usually the goal for people who've had RA for many years. Near remission means your symptoms have been reduced, and your day-to-day functioning has improved. This scenario requires more day-to-day management of the condition, including self-care.

To meet these goals, aggressive treatment plans are likely to include a combination of powerful medications that not only treat symptoms but also slow the disease and prevent joint damage. These drugs are called disease-modifying antirheumetic drugs (DMARDs).

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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.