Leeches and Medical Use

Leeches are one of the best kinds of creatures for therapy. Many people think they kill people by sucking all of their blood. Well, they do suck people’s blood, but not enough to make them die. Leeches are very helpful to the human body in many ways. Leeches are easy to use and there is a plentiful amount to go around. Leeches helped the medical field throughout history in many different categories. Leeches have been around for quite a while all over the world. The leech was first traced back to Egypt by a painting in a tomb all the way back to 1600 BC.

Greeks and Latin writers used different names for the leeches like “Hirudo” and “Sanguisuga”. Around the time 123 to 43 BC, the founder of the School of Medicine was the first to recommend the use of leeches for therapy. Leeches were already being used in Rome for hemorrhoids and phlebitis. Hemorrhoids are swollen veins in the lower part of your anus. Phlebitis is when there is inflammation in your veins usually located by your legs. Normally, that is when a blood clot forms. Towards the end of the middle Ages, many doctors were treating many problems with leeches.

During the 16th and 17th century, leeches died out because a man named Harvey showed errors that were made before with the leeches. Leeches came back in the 18th century and to treat the same two illnesses that were big back then, hemorrhoids and phlebitis. To treat these illnesses, the doctors used bloodletting. Bloodletting is a procedure used to balance the body’s blood by letting the person bleed out for a little while. In 1846, France became the country to use the most leeches in a year. France used 30 million leeches in one year.

A surgeon who belonged to France had a thought that all the diseases came from an inflammation of the stomach. The surgeon thought that the only way the inflammation could be treated was to put the leeches on the stomach to stop it, which would be stopped by using bloodletting. After using so many leeches, France finally ran out. The people of France were so desperate for leeches that France asked countries around them. Leeches were worldwide famous. In the 19th century, America was in love with the leech. The Government was offering money to anyone who could breed a leech that was like one in Europe.

A farm realized that to become like a European leech, the farm had to feed the leeches certain things. Whenever horses always walked by in the marshes, the leeches came up. The business Bechade saw that it was working, and so Bechade put dead horses for the leeches to come up and feed on. There were a lot of health risks with feeding them dead horses in marshes, because the horse could have a disease, or the water in the marsh wasn’t sanitary. A lot of other people tried to catch wild leeches by using themselves or using another animal.

During 19th century, citizens thought that leeches could “cure-all” meaning that leeches could cure anything and everything, so people were crazy about catching leeches. Just like in France, there started to be less and less. The field of medicine started using antibiotics and other medicine to use on patients instead of leeches; so medicinal leeches were kind of ignored for a while. A few years ago, leeches started making their comeback. Instead of using the silly ways to catch them, leeches are now being created in farms and institutions.

Leeches are popular in the use of reconstructive surgery and to treat many diseases. Everyone thinks that leeches suck your blood until you have no more left. That is a very false statement. Leeches are actually harmless creatures. The most common leech is the Hirudo medicinalis, which is also known as the European leech. The leech is a green or brown color with a thin red stripe on the side. These leeches are most commonly used for medicine uses. A leech does bite, but the bite doesn’t hurt much. Once a leech attaches with its 300 sharp teeth, the leech releases its saliva and sucks blood.

Leeches are only capable of taking so much blood out, so they have to let go after 30 minutes or so. Leeches fall off when they are full. With the help of leeches, it makes healing things such infections, skin flaps easier and leeches also help do many things with the blood in our bodies. Saliva is very important with the therapy of leeches. The saliva itself has over 100 bioactive substances, which means the saliva has an effect on a living organism, cell, or tissue. The three main enzymes in the saliva are hirudin, calin, and destabilase. Hirudin is the most common enzyme.

Hirudin helps keep the blood flowing by having an anticoagulant agent. An anticoagulant agent stops the forming of blood clots, and helps the blood flow. Hirudin also helps with platelet aggregation. Platelet aggregation is where platelets stick together. These three bioactive substances work together to keep the blood from thickening, and make the blood vessels bigger. A big factor of the saliva is the anesthetic. When the leech bites with its 300 sharp teeth, you cannot feel a thing. The reason that you feel nothing is because the anesthetic goes into your skin and the anesthetic causes a loss of sensation in that location.

It is just the same as if you are in a surgery; they give you anesthesia so you won’t feel a thing. The saliva of a leech helps with many different problems in people’s bodies. A lot of common diseases can be treated with leech therapy. Arthritis is a very common disease in the bodies of elderly people, and even younger people. Arthritis is when one or more of the joints in your body have inflammation. The enzymes in the saliva take away some of the pain. They also reduce the inflammation by making the blood vessels bigger. Hirudin is the main bioactive substance that helps with making the vessels bigger.

When the blood vessels increase, better blood flow is in the joint. Since there is more blood in the vessels, the blood will help wash away the painful compounds and it will reduce inflammation and pain in the joint. Leeches also play a huge role in skin grafting too. A skin graft is when skin is taken from a different part of your body and placed somewhere else. A leech helps the skin graft by injecting its saliva, which contains hirudin. The hirudin brings good blood to the graft, and reduces blood that has no oxygen. The skin graft starts to get good blood flow, and helps in the healing of skin graft.

The cardiovascular and vascular systems really get help from leech therapy because of all the bioactive substances. Some of the substances can make vessels bigger, thin blood, and stop clotting. Leeches are great for medical purposes and can help in many departments. Leech therapy has many benefits for the medical field. Leeches are used for many treatments that antibiotics could help, but leeches are more efficient in so many ways. People don’t have to get a shot or swallow a pill, all they have to do is let the leech bite them and let the leech hang there for about thirty minutes.

The leech will just let go when it’s done and then that is all there is to the procedure. A lot of institutions and farms are breeding leeches and so there are a lot of leeches available for use. They are produced specifically for medicine, and so no one else will waste them. The nice thing about having a plentiful amount of leeches is that the leeches are never used again after they have fed off of one person. When people get shots, they person can feel the antibiotic going into their system, but when a leech bites into someone’s skin, nothing will be felt because of their saliva filled with an anesthetic.

Blood is extracted from the person’s body when the leech is attached and after the leech detaches, but a good amount of blood is still lost. About 15 milliliters of blood per leech is lost. Normally when doing leech therapy, the therapists use about ten leeches. Leeches are so good at removing blood by connecting all the way back to the enzyme hirudin. Hirudin is an anticoagulant, so blood doesn’t clot. Blood will just keep coming out because there is no clot to stop all of the blood. Leeches are fairly cheaper than antibiotics. A leech costs fewer than seven dollars, while a bottle of pills can cost way more.

Safety is a big deal in the medical field too. Leeches are very safe. The only problem people could have with a leech is that after attaching itself, the leech would happen to throw up on the wound it made and makes the wound infected. Antibiotics take care of the infection just fine though, so it isn’t really a problem. All in all, leeches are just better to use for certain problems because of all of their benefits. I had a lot of questions as I was researching this topic. My first question was “Who thought of the worm-like creature to be so great”?

How did the people of the past know that it would suck blood out of people and that it could heal so many things at one time? After doing some research, I found out that the first sign of a leech was recorded in an Ayurveda book. It is a book of medicine for the people of India and Hindu religions. I don’t understand how they all found leeches because in the 19th century a business finally figured out what leeches loved. Another question I had was “Is leech therapy suitable for all ages”? I wondered this from the beginning because there are different sizes of people and they don’t all have the same amount of blood.

If a leech took the same amount from a child as an adult, maybe it would affect the child more because they lost more blood. Some places that do leech therapy don’t allow children under twelve to have it done. It is different for every place that offers it. The last question I had was “Are leeches going to still be used in the future”? I am very curious about this because I want to go into the medical field and it would be really neat if I could see leeches being put into play. Also, more and more technology and better medicine is coming out. I don’t know if it will affect the leeches or not because they can do so much more than a machine.

This topic has so many unanswered questions that I would like answered. I think leeches can be a huge help in medicine even in the future. They have so many bioactive substances and enzymes in their saliva, and we don’t know what every one does. I think that leech therapy is a great type of therapy because leeches can heal so many things that big machines couldn’t do. Leeches are very effective on people and it should never stop. More people need to see the importance of leeches and how huge of a role they play to the human body. Leeches have played a major role throughout history in the medical field.

People have thought leeches were the big things that could cure anything in the medicine book. Leeches impacted the way people think about medicine. As time goes on, leeches are still improving the human body, by helping with microsurgery, reattachments with little veins, and blood diseases. Using this type of therapy has affected people all over the world and the whole field of medicine. As leech therapy continues to improve, so does the world of medicine. “Leech Therapy. ” PBS. PBS, 2013. Web. 20 Oct. 2013. . “The Benefits of Leech Therapy and Its Effects. “

Mehdi. Mehdi Leech Therapist, Sydney Australia, n.d. Web. 20 Oct. 2013. . “Therapeutic Properties of Hirudotherapy:. ” Hirudotherapy Leeches. Niagara Medical Leeches, 2005. Web. 20 Oct. 2013. . Opfer, Chris. “Are Leeches Being Used In Modern Medicine? ” Discovery Fit and Health. Discovery Fit and Health, 2013. Web. 20 Oct. 2013. . “Leeching (medical Procedure). ” Encyclopedia Britannica Online. Encyclopedia Britannica, 2013. Web. 20 Oct. 2013. . Department of Biological Chemistry, Hebrew University of Jerusalem, Israel. “Result Filters. ” National Center for Biotechnology Information. U. S. National Library of Medicine, 2010. Web. 20 Oct. 2013.

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