Glucosamine, chondroitin and hyaluronic acid are three supplements and treatments used with individuals living with osteoarthritis. Osteoarthritis is a condition in which cartilage in the joints breaks down because of injury or wear and tear, says the University of Maryland Medical Center. Though osteoarthritis is not curable, these substances have been shown to reduce symptoms in some patients. Prior to using these supplements, it is best to consult with a health care professional to avoid any adverse interactions.
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Glucosamine is a naturally occurring substance in healthy cartilage, according to MedlinePlus.com. Glucosamine, typically taken with chondroitin, is used to help treat osteoarthritis, because it is said to strengthen cartilage. Individuals who are allergic to shellfish or have an iodine sensitivity can have allergic reactions to glucosamine, because it is made from the shells of shrimp and other shellfish; MedlinePlus also states that asthma exacerbations have been linked with glucosamine supplementation. While this supplement is generally well-tolerated by individuals for 30 to 90 days, adverse effects may still occur. Side effects include nausea, heartburn, constipation and diarrhea; some individuals may also experience temporary raises in blood pressure or heart rate.
Chondroitin also naturally occurs in the body and helps maintain cartilage health. The University of Maryland Medical Center states that the substance may also block substances that break down cartilage, further maintaining cartilage integrity. Though studies have yet to prove definitive results, chondroitin is used to help treat osteoarthritis and is usually taken in conjunction with glucosamine. In addition to helping protect cartilage, some studies have shown that chondroitin reduces the pain of osteoarthritis, though more studies need to be performed. Chondroitin has similar blood-thinning properties like the drug heparin and may enhance the effect of other blood-thinning drugs, says the University of Maryland. The supplement may also cause minor stomach upset. MedlinePlus.com lists rare side effects, including bowel changes, swelling near eyes and legs, an irregular heartbeat and hair loss.
Hyaluronic acid is naturally present in joint fluid; in individuals with osteoarthritis, this substance becomes thinner and eventually there is not enough fluid to cushion the joint, says the American Academy of Family Physicians. Injections with hyaluronic acid can be used in treating osteoarthritis to cushion and protect the joint. Side effects of hyaluronate, a typical derivative of hyaluronic acid, include gastrointestinal discomfort, local skin reactions near the injection site, itching, headache, and pain at the injection site, says Drugs.com.