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What are viscosupplements?

Viscosupplements are a non-surgical treatment option for those suffering with osteoarthritis of the knee. A viscosupplement is a gel-like fluid called hyaluronic acid, which is a naturally occuring substance in the synovial fluid surrounding the knee joint. It theoretically acts as a lubricant to improve movement and reduce pain. This treatment has been debated for some time with no robust evidence showing clear benefit.

Viscosupplements are osteoarthritis treatments that use hyaluronic acid (or hyaluronate) to replace the synovial fluid that helps lubricate the joints, which is lost in people with osteoarthritis. (Hyaluronic acid is one of the two natural lubricants in synovial fluid.) It is approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for the treatment of knee pain in people with osteoarthritis who are unresponsive to nonpharmacologic measures and analgesic medications and who have significantly increased flares of inflammation or extensive inflammation. Even though FDA approved, controversy remains over the effectiveness of hyaluronic acid injections. The drugs, which include hyaluronan (Hyalgan) and hylan-GF-20 (Synvisc), are injected directly into the joint. These drugs are usually injected into the knee, but their use in other joints is being studied. Injections are typically given weekly over several weeks, and the pain relief may last for a few months. Because it is made from rooster combs, people with sensitivity to birds, feathers or eggs should not receive viscosupplements. Researchers are testing whether hyaluronic acid can slow the progression of osteoarthritis.

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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.