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A Component of Joint Tissue Called Hyaluronic Acid can help Restore Joint Functi

old message Hyaluronic Acid can help Restore Joint Function Darrell Miller 12/01/08


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Date: December 01, 2008 10:03 AM
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Subject: Hyaluronic Acid can help Restore Joint Function

Hyaluronic acid, also known as hyaluronan, is one of the main components of the extracellular matrix of connective tissue and joints, and is one of the main chemicals contained in the synovial fluid that lubricates your joints. Before we discuss how it can be used to help restore the function of damaged joints, let's have a look at what causes joint pain, and why joints can break down long before their time.

You might have heard that arthritis is an inflammatory condition, or that it is due to the immune system. This is true to an extent, and rheumatoid arthritis is an immune system problem, although osteoarthritis is a different problem altogether. Arthritis is not the only cause of joint pain of course, but is by far the most common cause. As already inferred, there are two forms of arthritis, each with a different basic cause.

Osteoarthritis is the most common form of joint disease, and is largely due to wear and tear, injury or can be hereditary. However it is usually initiated by damage, the joint surface becomes roughened and the bone around the damaged area gets thicker to compensate. A joint is where two bones meet, and not all joints move. You have the fixed joints in your skull, for example, and those between the ribs and the spine. However, arthritis generally affects the joints associated with movement, mainly the knees, hips, fingers, toes and elbows.

The ends of the bones are covered with a thin layer of cartilage, which can absorb shocks and both cushion the joint and allow the ends of the bones to move smoothly over each other. Round each joint is a membrane known as the synovium that is filled with the thick synovial fluid, which lubricates the cartilage. The bone ligaments hold them close to the joint, and prevent them moving too much and dislocating. Finally, the joint is completed by the tendons that attach the muscles to the bones they control.

Osteoarthritis causes a joint to deteriorate: the cartilage becomes rougher and wears, and the bone beneath the cartilage gets thicker. At the edge of the joint the bone tends to grow outwards, forming spurs and the synovium swells producing extra synovial fluid. This causes swelling and pain, and ultimately the joint can be damaged beyond repair. This process takes a number of years to reach a stage whereby pain and discomfort are felt.

Before that situation occurs, however, the joint tries to repair itself, and hyaluronic acid can take part in this process. It is mainly involved in the reparation of connective tissues such as cartilage, although there are other connective tissues which hyaluronan has been found to repair. These include skin, eyes and heart valves and hyaluronic acid can arguably be used to help repair all of them.

However, it is joint tissue with which we are concerned here, and hyaluronan is an important component of articular cartilage: the type of cartilage involved in movement (knees, hips, etc), as opposed the type that forms your nose or the external part of your ears. It is believed that injections of hyaluronic acid can help to repair damaged articular cartilage. However, osteoarthritis is only one of the two forms of arthritis. The other is rheumatoid arthritis, and this is much more sinister.

Rheumatoid arthritis is caused by the attack of your joints by your own immune system, although why this happens is unknown. The most likely theory is that certain infections trigger the immune system, and it then proceeds to attack the synovial joints. Cytokines are responsible for inflammation of the synovial fluid, which can also cause fever, loss of weight and appetite, and inflammation of the blood vessels.

The body tries to generate more synovial fluid which causes swelling round the whole joint, putting pressure on the damaged areas, and generating even more pain. The inflammatory response commences and the whole area becomes seriously painful.

The smaller joints are most commonly affected, such as the fingers and toes, but it can progress to the elbows, hips and the knees. The joints become red, swollen and finally too stiff to be used. The sinusitis eventually leads erosion of the joint and deformation.

Because hyaluronic acid behaves like the synovial fluid, it is believed that it can be used to treat both forms of arthritis. It is a glycosaminoglycan, an unbranched polysaccharide of the same type as chondroitin sulfate that is commonly used to treat arthritis. It can be used to increase the viscosity of the synovial fluid, and render a more effective lubricant.

However, it is in treatment of osteoarthritis that hyaluronan is most likely to find success. It is used to improve the viscosity of the synovial fluid, so providing increased lubrication to the joint and helping reduce the pain. In fact it not escaped notice that those who eat a diet rich in hyaluronic acid tend to live longer and look younger than those that do not do so.

Commercial preparations are currently in use or under evaluation for disorders such as glaucoma, fractures, and detached retinas, damage to cartilage, healing ligaments and osteoarthritis. These last three are particularly of interest to arthritis sufferers, and signs are that they are effective with many cases.

However, it has also been established that smoking cigarettes can negate the effect of hyaluronic acid, and excessive levels of Vitamin C can also degrade it. Estrogen treatment, however, can enhance its effect in repairing connective tissue. Zinc deficiencies have also been found to have negative results, so make sure that these factors are addressed if you are using hyaluronic acid to treat arthritis.

Something to keep in mind if you are taking hyaluronic acid orally is the size of the molecule. It is a very large molecule, and suffers from the same absorption problems as chondroitin sulfate. There are smaller hyaluronan molecule versions available if you can find them, that improve the absorption through the intestine, but if not then the dose will generally be greater than expected due to the low absorption levels due to the molecule being too large to be easily absorbed through the tissues into the bloodstream.




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