By Matthew Delman

Hyaluronic acid is a glycosaminoglycan, a substance that attaches to collagen and elastin to form cartilage in the body, thus keeping joints flexible and also preserving the elasticity of the skin. In fact, according to, hyaluronic acid has shown promise in treating rheumatoid and osteoarthritis pain, in addition to other applications as a beauty product. It's not without its dangers, however, even with the smallest useful doses.

knee pain
credit: phototake/iStock/Getty Images
Cartilage keeps joints flexible in the body.


cancer cell
credit: vitanovski/iStock/Getty Images
3D of cells.

Hyaluronic acid is a naturally occurring substance in the human body. It works in tandem with collagen and elastin, other common chemicals, to keep skin cells elastic and offer ease of movement to joints through cartilage creation. Hyaluronic acid also ferries toxins away from and carries nutrients to cartilage and similar cells that don't have a blood supply; low levels of hyaluronic acid may actually result in brittle joints.

Hyaluronic acid assists with water retention in bodily tissues, and is found in the extracellular matrix—the fluid-filled space between cells—where it locks moisture in to keep collagen and elastin moist.


finger pain
credit: phototake/iStock/Getty Images
Arthritis pain.

Hyaluronic acid can help with arthritis pain through increased lubrication of the joint. It's also used in beauty products, such as the Professional Solutions 100% Pure Hyaluronic Moisturizer and Genzyme's Hylaform gel, which are designed to help with the elasticity of the skin.

According to, hyaluronic acid also helps wounds heal faster—limiting or reducing scarring—and can have benefits similar to Botox while still being all natural.

Types of Treatments

credit: Jupiterimages/ Images

Hyaluronic acid typically comes as either an oral tablet or an injection. The injection is given slightly below the skin to allow for maximum absorption in the case of wrinkle treatment, or it can be inserted into a major joint, such as the knee.

According to, people start to see benefits after about two to four months of oral supplementation.

Side Effects

Woman taking temperature
credit: BananaStock/BananaStock/Getty Images
Feeling sick.

Even though hyaluronic acid is a natural substance, there are still some issues that arise from the treatments themselves. Many of these, according to Poushali Ganguly at, are associated with the hyaluronic acid injection treatment.

The side effects that Ganguly mentions include coughing, difficulty swallowing, dizziness, fever, pain at the injection site, swelling in the face and lips, diarrhea, acute headache and occasionally blue or purplish patches on the skin. Additionally, Ganguly also states that, in the case of knee injections, the knee can potentially swell.


Woman using facial tissue
credit: Pixland/Pixland/Getty Images

Besides the common side effects of hyaluronic acid injections, another thing to consider is where the hyaluronic acid treatment is taken from. Genzyme's Hylaform gel is taken from the coxcombs of roosters, for example, so people with allergies related to birds would probably notice an issue.

Take care also to check what the hyaluronic acid is mixed with, if anything. In the case of hyaluronic acid-based Restylane, distributed by Medicis, there's the possibility of contracting an animal-based disease after receiving an injection.