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When someone hears the word “remission” they often think that a sick person has been cured and sometimes it does mean that there has been a total reversal of any signs of disease. In these cases, the disease appears to be gone. It may or may not mean that a patient is cured as some diseases do return.

In diseases like sarcoidosis, there is sometimes a complete reversal of disease symptoms. The disease goes away and never returns. Generally, this means the disease was relatively mild to begin with and there was no evidence of organ damage as a result of getting it. This happens a lot in cases of sarcoidosis but not all of them.

There is another reality to this disease. Sometimes, for some patients like me, it becomes a chronic condition. When the disease is chronic in nature, remission may not mean what people typically think of. When the disease is chronic, a remission is rarely a complete reversal of symptoms. Instead, remission is often a stabilization of symptoms. It means symptoms are not getting worse. They may even have lessened but they are not usually gone.

What remission actually means to any given patient is different depending on their disease, disease progression and individual circumstance but it becomes important to understand the distinction between a complete reversal of symptoms and the lessening of them as it relates to the word remission.

In cases like mine, a patient can be in remission and still require medication. It’s the medication that often stabilizes the disease for a chronic suffer. And, it may mean that even if my symptoms stabilize, I will face a life time of likely flare ups. Flare ups happen when, for whatever reason, there is an exacerbation of symptoms.

So while remission, in whatever form it comes, is a good thing for the patient, it may not tell the whole story. And because it may not tell the whole story, it is important to clarify the differences so that patients can better manage expectations and deal with whatever reality faces them.