Aging is a big issue for the body, and brings many unpleasant changes. Wrinkles and weak joints are the worse of everything. But, these issues can be remedied by a most unlikely substance found in the rooster combs and some vegetables – hyaluronic acid (HA).

“This substance is a lot like egg white, only not quite as thick. In joints, it works to ease movement and absorb impact”, says Jason Theodosakis, physician and a co-author of “The Arthritis Cure”. Besides that, it gives face skin volume and shape.

Hyaluronic acid can be found in various creams and supplements, but not all of its varieties work well. Some of the claims for HA are more reliable than others. While it cushions joints and fills in wrinkles, the pill form can lead to longevity. Theodosakis says that this claim comes from a village in Japan where people lived for an unusually long time. It was speculated that this came from the HA rich vegetable they ate. But this was just a theory, never proven.

Experts claim that the best way to take hyaluronic acid is by injecting it. These shots may have advantages for arthritis and aging skin.

Plumping up wrinkles

This amazing acid has gained popularity in December 2003 and in last April, when the FDA approved injectable Restylane and Hylaform, used for filling wrinkles around the nose and mouth. Restylane even lasts longer than collagen, from four to six months compared to collagen’s three. Treatments with collagen also require allergy tests, which makes Restylane a better choice.

Hylaform is similar to Restylane, although its effects are shorter.

Joshua Fox, director of Advanced Dermatology in Roslyn, New York and a spokesperson for the American Academy of Dermatology, describes it as: “It’s good for someone who doesn’t have a lot of sagging and doesn’t need a lot of volume added. And, for some people, it provides a more natural look than collagen.”

Theodosakis states that you should be wary of creams which say on the label that the HA in it is the same as an injection. According to Theodosakis, they will not reduce the wrinkles any more than a regular moisturizer, and using them makes as much scientific sense as putting your head in a dictionary to read it. “The active ingredient can’t be absorbed – its molecules are too big”, he says.

Patients, use and risks

The treatment is recommended for people who want to reduce wrinkles with longer lasting results than collagen. However, the insurance companies are not covering expenses.

It would be best to find a cosmetic surgeon who uses Restylane regularly, and get out of the public for a day or two in case swelling or redness appears. It would also be better not to take St. John’s Wort, Gingko Biloba, or high doses of vitamin E before the treatment. They are blood thinners and will interfere with the process.

Naomi Lawrence, a surgeon from New Jersey, says that many people do not know that these cause more bruises. The same goes for Aspirin, so one should stop taking it at least two weeks before the treatment. One shot of Restylane should be enough, and costs 600$.

Side effects are expected in the first weeks, and 25-50% of all patients experience swelling, redness or tenderness.

Joint padding

The FDA approved hyaluronic acid for treatment of knee arthritis some years ago. It boosts the joint cushion which can’t be done with conventional treatments. Most treatments target the inflammation when the joints rub against each other. Cortisone shots work this way.

“With osteoarthritis, the fluid in the knee that normally provides cushion and support thins out. HA appears to add thickness to that fluid and therefore helps the knee move with less friction and pain.”, Dennis Wen, a physician and an associate professor of family and community medicine at the University of Missouri Columbia Medical School explains.

But not all people with knee arthritis must get HA shots: the best candidates are people who exhausted every other option. Some potential candidates must have surgery to clean any bits of cartilage that may be troubling.

Thedosakis says that people who are doing well with glucosamine and chondroitin will not experience further improvement with hyaluronic acid. He continues to say that there’s an unknown issue concerning the pain relief and the reason it stays longer than HA. HA goes away in days or hours, but the pain stays for longer. Whatever the cause, the HA treatment works in half the patients.

In addition, HA is quicker to determine if it works than any other treatment. “If it’s going to help, you should start to feel better within a couple of weeks,” Theodosakis says.

HA treatment: Patients, use, risks

This treatment works best in arthritis knee patients without any other option left. They are usually given three or five weekly injections: Synvisc (synthetic version of HA), Hyalgan (natural variety) and Orthovisc (also natural). Most insurance companies cover the 1000 – 1500$ expenses.

If arthritis is present in any other joints, the patient can get an injection, but it won’t be covered by the insurance, even though like an orthopedic surgeon from Arlington, Virginia, Robert Nirschl says that “a joint is a joint”.

The HA treatment does not have any side effects. Theodosakis says that some patients may have a severe inflammation caused by Synvisc, but it’s extremely rare. It’s usually treated with some ice and anti-inflammatory medicine, but if it comes to an infection, antibiotics will be required.