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What Is Hyaluronan?

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  • Written By: Jacquelyn Gilchrist
  • Edited By: O. Wallace
  • Last Modified Date: 03 August 2014
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Hyaluronan is a medication prescribed for the treatment of osteoarthritis. This treatment, sometimes called viscosupplementation, is used for affected knee joints. It works like the natural synovial fluid in the joint to cushion it and provide lubrication to reduce pain and improve mobility. Patients will typically try other treatment methods first before using this drug.

This medicine is injected into the affected joint by a doctor or nurse. Patients will not typically inject it themselves at home. Sometimes, the doctor will need to aspirate, or withdraw, excess fluid from the joint before administering the injection. Patients may notice temporary swelling or pain at the injection site following each dosage. For the next 48 hours, they must avoid weight-bearing activities like jogging, any other strenuous activity, or prolonged standing.

Adults will usually receive a dosage of hyaluronan once per week for about three to four weeks. Patients may not notice the full benefit of the medicine until after the third injection. The dosages will vary, depending on each person's individual needs and their response to the treatment.

Some side effects may occur with the use of hyaluronan to treat osteoarthritis of the knee, which should be reported to the prescribing physician if they become severe. In addition to temporary swelling and pain of the knee, a rash or minor bruising may occur at the injection site. Patients have also reported a general achy feeling, and headaches and warmth or redness at the knee may also occur.

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More serious side effects require a doctor's urgent care. Patients receiving hyaluronan should go to the emergency room immediately if they experience a fever, a rapid or pounding heartbeat, or a severe headache. Back pain and tingling skin have also been reported. Some people may suffer an allergic reaction to hyaluronan, which may present with tightness in the chest, severe dizziness, and trouble breathing. Allergic reactions may also cause facial swelling, a rash, and itching.

Before using hyaluronan injections for osteoarthritis, patients must disclose their other medical conditions, medications, and supplements to avoid a potential interaction. Women who are pregnant or breastfeeding should discuss the potential risks with their doctors. Those with an allergy to any bird or egg products, including bird feathers, should avoid this injection. It is contraindicated for use by those with a skin disease or infection at the injection site. Patients should also inform the doctor if they have a history of joint infections or circulation problems.

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