Hyaluronic acid is a compound found throughout your body, including your skin, eyes and joints. It is commonly added to joint supplements and cosmetics.
In sports and cosmetic medicine, physicians use hyaluronic acid injections to alleviate osteoarthritis and fill wrinkles, respectively.
Hyaluronic acid is available as a powder, injection or liquid. Most medical applications and research have focused on hyaluronic acid injections. There is less clinical research or evidence to support its efficacy as an oral supplement.
1. Knee Benefits
Hyaluronic acid joint injections may help reduce joint pain associated with knee osteoarthritis, according to the Mayo Clinic. The compound is similar to a substance that occurs naturally in the joints and works as a lubricant and shock absorber.
Research on the effectiveness of hyaluronic acid supplements for knee pain has been somewhat mixed, but a February 2018 review of 44 studies in Clinical and Transitional Medicine noted that it has lubrication, anti-inflammatory and chondroprotective effects.
In an older meta-analysis of 22 clinical trails, researchers at Johns Hopkins Arthritis Center concluded that people treated with hyaluronic acid injections reported modest reductions in knee pain. They remarked, however, that most trials were poorly designed, and the placebo effect rather than the drug might be responsible for their reported pain relief.
2. Skin Benefits
When injected into the skin, hyaluronic acid-based fillers can reduce the appearance of wrinkles. They can also "plump" skin or lips and make them appear fuller.
The Food and Drug Administration has approved multiple hyaluronic acid-based fillers that claim to reduce fine lines and wrinkles.
One randomized controlled trial, published November 2010 in Dermatologic Surgery, found that hyaluronic acid filler was a well-tolerated and effective treatment for reducing the appearance of severe nasolabial folds, which are commonly known as "laugh lines."
3. Eye Benefits
If you have ever suffered from dry eyes, you may have already used hyaluronic acid. Found naturally in the vitreous fluid of the eyes, hyaluronic acid is used in artificial tears as a lubricant to help relieve the symptoms of dry eyes, according to the American Academy of Optometry.
You can also find hyaluronic acid in many wrinkle creams for the eye area as an anti-aging ingredient. Hyaluronic acid naturally attracts and retains water and moisture to your skin, according to a July 2012 paper in Dermato-Endocrinology.
Hyaluronic acid may also be helpful for conjunctivitis, also referred to as pinkeye. The condition can be caused by viruses, bacteria, allergies, chemicals and irritation from contact lenses. Treatment with an eyewash solution containing ginkgo biloba extract with hyaluronic acid showed a significant decrease in symptoms when used for one month, according to Mount Sinai.
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- Johns Hopkins Arthritis Center: "Clinical Trials of Hyaluronic Acid Reflect Significant Publication Bias"
- Food and Drug Administration: "FDA-Approved Dermal Fillers"
- Mayo Clinic: "Hyaluronic Acid (Injection Route)"
- Dermatologic Surgery: "Improvement in nasolabial folds with a hyaluronic acid filler using a cohesive polydensified matrix technology: results from an 18-month open-label extension trial"
- American Academy of Optometry: "Hyaluronic Acid in the Treatment of Dry Eye"
- Dermato-Endocrinology: "Hyaluronic acid: A key molecule in skin aging"
- Mount Sinai: "Conjunctivitis Information"