What is Sodium Hyaluronate?

Jacquelyn Gilchrist

Sodium hyaluronate, which is sometimes called hyaluronate sodium, is an injected medication used to treat symptoms of osteoarthritis, such as pain. Patients will usually not be prescribed this treatment unless other osteoarthritis medicines have failed to provide sufficient relief. Sodium hyaluronate works by mimicking the effects of a natural substance found in the joints, called synovial fluid. This fluid cushions the joints, providing both shock absorption and lubrication.

Sodium hyaluronate is used to mimic synovial fluid in osteoarthritis patients.
Sodium hyaluronate is used to mimic synovial fluid in osteoarthritis patients.

Adults will typically be prescribed an injection of 20 milligrams (mg) of sodium hyaluronate. The doctor will administer a total of three to five injections, spaced one week apart. Patients will receive the shot directly into the knee to relieve osteoarthritis pain. After the injection, patients must carefully follow the doctor's instructions regarding physical activity. They will usually be unable to engage in strenuous or weight-bearing activities for the next 48 hours, however some people may be able to participate in certain activities that do not last longer than one hour.

Patients will be given a shot of sodium hyaluronate directly into the knee to relieve osteoarthritis pain.
Patients will be given a shot of sodium hyaluronate directly into the knee to relieve osteoarthritis pain.

Some patients may experience side effects following an injection of sodium hyaluronate. They should inform the doctor about any side effects that persist or become bothersome, such as headache, stomach pain, and diarrhea. Nausea, vomiting, and loss of appetite may also occur. Some people may notice a few blue or purple patches on their skin, as well as itching and swelling of the knee. These side effects will typically diminish or go away completely as the patient's body acclimates to sodium hyaluronate.

More serious side effects should be reported to the doctor immediately, which can include cough, tightness in the chest, and problems breathing. Wheezing, problems swallowing, and a stuffy nose may also occur. Some patients have experienced a fever, dizziness, or fainting, as well as facial swelling. The injection area may appear red, and other widespread areas of the skin may appear flushed, red, or bluish.

Before using sodium hyaluronate to treat osteoarthritis, patients should disclose their complete medical history to their doctors, including their allergies. They may be unable to use this medicine if they have allergies to birds, eggs, or bird products. Patients who have an active infection of the knee or the surrounding area should also not receive the injection. Women who are pregnant should discuss risks with their doctors, as sodium hyaluronate may cause harm to an unborn baby. As of 2011, it is unknown whether this medicine passes into breast milk or may harm a nursing infant.

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