Hyaluronic acid is an acid present in most of the parts of our body. It performs a number of functions. It also constitutes a huge part of our skin and plays a vital role in its repair from UVB rays. It is one of the few things that we do not notice when it is present, but its absence causes irreparable loss. I will explain how.
Many skin treatment products and cosmetics have Hyaluronic acid as an important ingredient that contributes immensely to the cream’s beneficial effects. Moreover, it is also useful in detecting the progress of cancer in the body. For prostate cancer and breast cancer, it is also used as a marker for tumor growth.
Another disease where Hyaluronic acid injections come in handy is for controlling Osteoarthritis pain. You will often hear the comparison between the engines of cars and our bones. We all know that cars need lubrication in order to function smoothly, and following the same vein, human bones too need lubrication to function smoothly. Many people say that as the human body ages, the cartilage (that provides cushioning to our bones) starts to wear down, and as a result, our bones begin to get rubbed together, causing swelling and unendurable pain.
Our bodies naturally have Synovial fluid in them. It contains many different elements and acts as the lubricator of our bodies. But in people suffering from Osteoarthritis pain, the hyaluronic acid (one of its components) in Synovial fluid breaks down and leads to unbearable pain and stiffness in joints, which is sometimes unbearable.
U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has sanctioned the use of Hyaluronic acid injections for treatment of Osteoarthritis pain in the knee, but doctors have started using them for treating Osteoarthritis pain in the ankle, hips, and other joints. The doctors recommend it through their personal experience and scientific evidences.
Endre A. Balazs, a Hungarian scientist, first proposed this use of Hyaluronic acid injections that was being used in various parts of the world and put to use but was approved by the FDA much later. Patients who can no longer take the pain of Osteoarthritis or handle the side effects of nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) like ibuprofen (a type of painkiller) which frequently leads to kidney problems and stomach bleeding are injected with hyaluronic acid injection. The injection is supposed to be injected right into the affected area once in a week, for some three to five weeks. It is known to produce some relief from the dreadful pain.
In 2006, a research conducted by MD, of the University of Queensland in Brisbane, Australia, Nicholas Bellamy reviewed 76 studies that examined the impact of Hyaluronic acid injection in the treatment of Osteoarthritis in the knee. He concluded that in a regular patient who regularly underwent treatment for Osteoarthritis pain through Hyaluronic acid injection, the relief levels were 28%-54%, the same as what is expected of NSAIDs. Moreover, the injections also gifted the patient with the ability to move around a bit, albeit only somewhere between 9-32%.
However, for the treatment to show results, the patient must wait and continue the treatment for some five weeks, while other treatments, like corticosteroid injections, provide much quicker relief. Unfortunately, the effect of this treatment lasts only about a month at the most, while the relief received from Hyaluronic acid injections stays for at least three months.
Moreover, excess usage of corticosteroid injections can also lead to the breakdown of cartilage and its further deterioration. So there are doctors who give double shots to their patients, one or Hyaluronic acid injection and one of corticosteroid injections, in order to make the pain relief faster and last longer. It is perhaps the best that can be done to slow down the disease.
Since each human body is distinct in itself, a significant part of the population that underwent this treatment was free of the Osteoarthritis pain for a prolonged period and did not have to suffer through the side effects either. At the same time, another large chunk of the patients showed no results whatsoever, despite undergoing the same treatment.
What is worse is that it is hardly possible to determine in advance whether the treatment will work for a particular patient or not.
Forbes recently published an article where they stated that the knee injections are more or less a waste of money, having no real effect whatsoever. They gave the reference of a study by Anne Rutjes, Peter Jüni and their colleagues, who took into consideration some 89 trials with more than 12,000 adults where it became evident that these injections were an absolute waste of time, energy, and money since they rarely leave a considerable effect.
The team also found five other such studies that had not been published and had concluded with the same results as the ones mentioned above. These studies not being published was attributed to their not ending with desired results, also called the ‘file drawer effect.' Adding extra lubricant may work for motor vehicles like cars, bicycles and even in other joints, but when it comes to our knees, we need to realize that bodies are not machines. They do not function the same as vehicles, which were man-made in the first place. The human body is nature’s creation and works differently. Furthermore, there are many parts and areas of the human body that are still under research and we know little about even our own bodies.
That being said, there are some positive cases as well where people have reportedly felt better after treatment through hyaluronic acid injections. In fact, in many cases, the patients never felt Osteoarthritis pain for a prolonged period of time, adding weight to the advantages of hyaluronic acid injections. The only shortcoming the people with positive outcomes had to face was that results started showing only after a treatment of at least five weeks.