woman looking towards light at the end of the tunnel

Remission Defined

It’s possible for individuals with IBD to experience periods of remission. During these times, IBD symptoms significantly decrease or disappear altogether. Remission can occur at any time, and last for different durations. Even though an individual may be experiencing relief from their IBD during a period of remission, treatment may still be needed to stop or slow down any underlying progression of the condition. In order to get a better understanding of life with IBD, including periods of remission, we conducted our 2018 IBD in America survey. Roughly 2,800 individuals with IBD responded to the survey, which included questions about IBD treatment, symptoms, quality of life, and more.

Describing remission

The word remission can mean different things and describe different experiences from person to person. Participants of the IBD in America survey were asked to define remission in their own words, in order to get a better understanding of what remission means on a broader scale. For some, remission meant having the ability to control pain as well as experiencing a reduction in symptoms. When asked to describe remission, these individuals said:

  • “Only occasional flares
  • “Symptoms are under control”
  • “I always have symptoms, but remission is when I’m not confined to bed
  • “Less pain and less symptoms”
  • “Keeping symptoms under relatively consistent control”
  • “I can tolerate the pain. I can eat more food. I have a little more energy”

For others, remission meant experiencing an increase in normalcy or regaining some of what their life was like before their IBD diagnosis. These individuals responded:

  • “Being able to eat normally”
  • “Having a little bit of my normal life back”
  • “Having normal and regular bowel movements”
  • “Feeling normal again”

One other major category of remission descriptors came from individuals who felt as though remission meant being in a state in which they didn’t need to think about their IBD every day. These individuals shared responses like:

  • “When my body no longer feels the need to remind me I have IBD”
  • “Going a day without remembering I have Crohn’s”
  • “Life is so normal that I forget I have this disease”

How common is remission?

Over one-third of survey participants reported that they were currently in remission at the time of the survey. Another third said they had experienced remission in the past, however, their IBD was currently active. The final third of participants reported that they had never experienced remission. Of this group, individuals with indeterminate colitis were the most likely to have never experienced remission, followed by ulcerative colitis and Crohn’s disease, respectively. Overall, about two-thirds of participants reported experiencing remission at some point throughout their IBD journey.

How long does remission last?

Remission can last for different lengths of time; however, the most commonly reported length of time was one to three years (reported by 30% of survey respondents). The next most common remission length was less than six months (27% of respondents), followed by six to 11 months (17% of respondents). About 12% of individuals said that their remission lasted four to six years, and another 6% said their remission lasted seven to ten years. Only 8% said their remission lasted longer than ten years.

It’s clear from the responses to the IBD in America survey that remission can vary from person to person, both in definition and duration. However, as mentioned, even if you are in a period of remission, it may still be necessary to continue treatment. Your doctor or healthcare provider will help determine whether or not treatment, even during remission, is important for your specific situation.

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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 InflammatoryBowelDisease.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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