Hyaluronic acid is a substance that is naturally present in the human body. It is found in the highest concentrations in fluids in the eyes and joints. The hyaluronic acid that is used as medicine is extracted from rooster combs or made by bacteria in the laboratory.
People take hyaluronic acid for various joint disorders, including osteoarthritis. It can be taken by mouth or injected into the affected joint by a healthcare professional.
The FDA has approved the use of hyaluronic acid during certain eye surgeries including cataract removal, corneal transplantation, and repair of a detached retina and other eye injuries. It is injected into the eye during the procedure to help replace natural fluids.
Hyaluronic acid is also used as a lip filler in plastic surgery.
Some people apply hyaluronic acid to the skin for healing wounds, burns, skin ulcers, and as a moisturizer.
There is also a lot of interest in using hyaluronic acid to prevent the effects of aging. In fact, hyaluronic acid has been promoted as a "fountain of youth." However, there is no evidence to support the claim that taking it by mouth or applying it to the skin can prevent changes associated with aging.
How does it work?
Hyaluronic acid works by acting as a cushion and lubricant in the joints and other tissues. In addition, it might affect the way the body responds to injury.
Likely Effective for:
- Sores in the mouth, when applied to the skin as a gel.
- Eye surgery and corneal transplant, when injected by an eye surgeon.
Possibly Effective for:
- Osteoarthritis, when injected into the joint by a healthcare provider. Despite being approved by the FDA for treatment of osteoarthritis by injection, results vary. Some people report a moderate improvement in joint stiffness and pain decrease with hyaluronic acid treatment, but this is not always the case. Whether hyaluronic acid might delay or lessen progressive joint damage with long-term use is unknown.
- Healing skin wounds and burns.
- Detached retina and other eye injuries.
- Preventing the effects of aging.
Side Effects & Safety
Prescription forms of hyaluronic acid are safe for most people. There isn't enough information about hyaluronic acid to know if it is safe when taken by mouth. Sometimes hyaluronic acid can cause pain and redness where it is injected. Increased pressure in the eye may occur after hyaluronic acid is used for eye surgery. Rarely, hyaluronic acid may cause allergic reactions.
Special Precautions & Warnings:Pregnancy and breast-feeding: Hyaluronic acid is POSSIBLY SAFE when given by injection during pregnancy. However, not enough is known about the safety of hyaluronic acid when taken by mouth or applied to the skin during pregnancy. Stay on the safe side and avoid use.
If you are breast-feeding, don’t use hyaluronic acid, even by injection. Researchers don’t know whether it can get into breast milk and what effect that might have on an infant.
The following doses have been studied in scientific research:
- For treating osteoarthritis: healthcare providers inject hyaluronic acid into the knee joint.