What is Hyalgan?

Hyalgan is a highly purified solution of sodium hyaluronate, a natural chemical found in the body. Hyaluronate is a lubricant and shock absorber found in the tissue and fluid around the knee. Lack of hyaluronate or a change in the quality of the chemical can be the cause of osteoarthritis. Hyalgan was FDA approved in the late 1990s for use as a treatment for osteoarthritis of the knee. Studies are still being conducted as to the effectiveness of using the treatment in other joints. Though it is an injection, it is not considered drug therapy.

What is it used for?

Hyalgan shots are used as a treatment for osteoarthritis of the knees. These shots are typically used after physical therapy, drug treatments, and exercise have failed or provided little relief. The naturally found chemical allows the knee to move more smoothly, thereby lessening the pain involved with movement. The precise mechanism of how it works is unknown. One of the earliest signs of osteoarthritis is the breakdown of synovial fluid, of which hyaluronic acid is a major component. It is thought that Hyalgan shots restore the synovial fluid back to a healthy state, in effect lessening the pain of osteoarthritis.

How is it administered?

Hyalgan is administered in a series of shots directly to the affected joint. A shot will be given once a week for five weeks; some people showed improvement after only three shots. To lessen the pain of a shot directly into the knee, a preceding shot of lidocaine may be given.

What are the side effects?

As with all shots, there may be swelling and pain at the injection site. This normally goes away after a short period of time. Less serious side effects can include nausea, headache, back pain, numbness, cold symptoms, itching or irritation around the knee. More serious side effects can include allergic reaction, severe pain, fast heartbeat, anxiety, confusion, or hives. Immediately consult your physician if any of these occur.

What are the benefits?

More than 90 clinical studies have been conducted with all showing positive results. Most patients show pain relief for the 26 weeks following the treatment. Decreased pain during movement, pain at rest, increased knee joint function, walking time, and overall improvement was recorded. Each patient’s reaction to Hyalgan will vary depending on the degree of pain and medical condition.

Who should avoid Hyalgan?

Hyaluronic acid is a naturally found chemical in almost all species. Hyalgan is derived from rooster combs, where hyaluronic acid is found in particularly high amounts. Anyone with allergies related to feathers, birds, eggs or poultry should avoid Hyalgan shots. People with infections or skin disease around the injection site should wait until the condition clears before treatment. Women who are pregnant or breastfeeding should discuss treatment with their healthcare professional. Hyalgan has not been shown to excrete through breast milk. Lastly, anyone with a previous allergic reaction to Hyalgan or hyaluronate products should avoid this treatment.

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