Types of RA Control: Are You Getting All 3?

Types of RA Control: Are You Getting All 3?

Remission may no longer be the finish line for your joints.

If you have rheumatoid arthritis (RA), remission is the golden ring—the prize that means your treatment is working.

But researchers are finding that, even when you're in remission, RA may still be progressing quietly, damaging your joints and limiting your lifestyle. They're finding that looking beyond remission could lead to even better care.

3 types of RA control
Researchers have been studying a type of treatment goal called comprehensive disease control. This means a person would have control over three parts of their RA:

  • joint symptoms
  • joint damage
  • daily physical function

This treatment goal is more comprehensive than remission, which typically means only no joint symptoms.

The benefits of reaching all 3
A 2014 study reviewed a few different clinical trials that looked at the benefits of comprehensive control. The results were huge: When compared to others in the studies, the people who achieved control in all three areas had significant improvements in their pain, fatigue, quality of life and physical function. They were also more productive at work and missed fewer days on the job.

Not only did people start to feel better and live better, they also helped prevent RA from attacking their joints any further. Plus, it's already known that having better control over your disease means fewer doctor visits and a better chance at living a longer, healthier life.

"It shows how far treatments have come," says Arthur Kavanaugh, MD, study co-author and professor of medicine and director of the Center for Innovative Therapy (CIT) at UC San Diego Rheumatology, Allergy & Immunology.

But as of now, this is simply an idea being researched and not a practical treatment goal, explains Dr. Kavanaugh. "Research is ongoing to explore what the potential differences are between achieving remission and achieving comprehensive disease control," he says. "We're now debating what the best definition of remission is."

So while research continues and doctors learn what this could mean for people with RA, consider these simple life tweaks you can make in the meantime to start feeling better today:

  • Make your meals Mediterranean. Eating the right diet full of omega-3 fatty acids can help your treatment be more effective and help you lose extra weight.
  • Stick to an easy-on-joints workout. Gentle exercises, like yoga and Tai Chi, can help you boost your range of motion without causing more aches or pains.
  • Say goodbye to added sugar. Studies show that sugary sodas can up RA inflammation, not to mention putting you at a higher risk for other health problems, like heart disease.
  • Take a breather. Whether it's from your job, family or RA itself, stress can be a real issue for people with RA, especially because it may lead to a heart attack. Practice good self-care by talking to friends, going on a walk or curling up with a great book.

Even if your RA is technically in remission, if it's keeping you from doing things you enjoy, tell your doctor. They'll know what treatment goals are best for you—and what therapies will get you there.

Medically reviewed in April 2020.

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