Many people count on drugs to make them well. They don’t think of blood sucking leeches. They don’t know that leeches can save their lives.
Did you know that doctors starting using leeches 2500 years ago? Today, this small invertebrate is used for plastic and reconstructive surgery. The leech causes a small bleeding wound that mimics circulation in the veins in the affected area. After the leech is detached the patient bleeds normally for up to ten hours.
As most medical/surgical procedures, a patient’s good attitude toward this use of leeches is important. The procedure is painless but seem people just don’t like the idea of having a leech on their body.
Leeches were widely used for bloodletting in the 1800’s. At that time, the medical profession felt that bloodletting was a good thing. Leeches became an endangered species. Then the medical profession changed their tune about bloodletting, thinking it was a bad thing and the practice was discontinued. Today leeches are used again but for different reasons.
Some physicians use leeches to reduce pain for patients with osteoarthritis. Others use them in plastic surgery, when limbs are detached and need to be reattached. The surgeons feel that the leeches help improve impaired circulation.
A leech’s saliva has an anticoagulant that prevents blood clots, a substance that dilates blood vessels and an anesthetic to dull pain.
An Alaskan boy was recently saved with the help of leeches. He was suffering with an infection that was preventing his internal organs from getting the blood flow they needed. Blood was not reaching his hands and feet and they were turning black and cold. He had a high fever, but his hands and feet felt like ice.
The doctor decided that using medicines could be dangerous to the boy so he ordered leeches to improve the blood flow in the boy’s hands and feet. He attached them to the boy’s hands and feet, hoping for blood flow. Immediately the boy’s skin color improved and blood started flowing. The therapy was continued for seven days, requiring dozens of leeches. After a month, the boy recovered fully. Unfortunately, some fingers and toes had to be amputated, but the boy’s life was saved. The doctor said that without the leeches the boy would have lost large chunks of his feet and most of his hands.