Hyaluronic acid is a compound found throughout your body, including your skin, eyes and joints. It is commonly added to joint supplements and cosmetics.
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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, per the Cleveland Clinic.
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, pain-relieving and chondroprotective effects.
A January 2020 review in the Journal of Orthopaedic Surgery likewise concluded that people treated with hyaluronic acid injections had modest reductions in knee pain. However, injections of platelet-rich plasma appear to be better for pain relief and knee function improvement, per the research.
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.
However, these results are only temporary, typically lasting about 6 to 12 months, according to the American Board of Cosmetic Surgery. Per March 2020 research in Scientific Reports, fillers can also cause side effects, including:
- Allergic reaction
Beware of black market dermal fillers you can buy online, which may contain non-sterile substances that can cause allergic reactions or infection, per Harvard Health Publishing.
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, so treatment can vary based on the root cause.
That said, 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. However, ginkgo biloba may be the more beneficial ingredient in this concoction, per older May 2009 research in the European Journal of Ophthalmology.
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- Food and Drug Administration: "FDA-Approved Dermal Fillers"
- Mayo Clinic: "Hyaluronic Acid (Injection Route)"
- 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"
- Cleveland Clinic: "Injections That May Ease Your Joint Pain"
- Journal of Orthopaedic Surgery: "Platelet-rich plasma versus hyaluronic acid in knee osteoarthritis: A meta-analysis with the consistent ratio of injection"
- American Board of Cosmetic Surgery: "Injectable Fillers Guide"
- Harvard Health Publishing: "Dermal fillers: The good, the bad and the dangerous"
- Scientific Reports: "Comparative Evaluation of the Effectiveness of Novel Hyaluronic Acid-Polynucleotide Complex Dermal Filler"
- European Journal of Ophthalmology: "Clinical efficacy of a Ginkgo biloba extract in the topical treatment of allergic conjunctivitis"