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Updated April 2019 v2
Hyaluronic acid (brand names Synvisc, Osteoartz) is used to treat osteoarthritis, a condition that affects the joints. It is most commonly used to treat osteoarthritis of the knee. It is not used as a treatment for rheumatoid arthritis. In a normal joint a layer of cartilage or gristle covers the ends of the bones. Cartilage helps the joint move smoothly and cushions the ends of the bones. In osteoarthritis cartilage breaks down and becomes thin. This leaves the ends of the bones unprotected and the joint loses its ability to move smoothly. Hyaluronic acid is found naturally in joints and other parts of the body. In the joint it is found in the cartilage and the synovial fluid that lubricate the joints to keep them working smoothly. In people with osteoarthritis the hyaluronic acid gets thinner and it is no longer able to protect the joint. Injections of artificial hyaluronic acid into affected joints may improve the protection. Hyaluronic acid injections are usually offered to people with osteoarthritis of the knee if other treatments have not worked or are unsuitable.
Your doctor will inject the hyaluronic acid directly into the knee joint. Local anaesthetic is sometimes used before the injection. Injections may be given once a week for three weeks or a single injection depending on the particular product your doctor recommends.
Hyaluronic acid may be used with other arthritis medicines including:
There are separate information sheets for the medicines mentioned above
Side effects from hyaluronic acid injections are not common. Most are limited to the site of injection and do not last long. Tell your doctor if you are concerned about possible side effects.
Local side affects may include:
These local reactions may be treated by resting and applying ice to the injected area or by simple pain relievers.