Eye Diseases and Leech Therapy

Ever wondered how our ancestors dealt with their medical problems? Many very important medical breakthroughs only occurred during the past century and brings us to question what passed for medicines and curative procedures.

Leeches shown during treatment of varied conditions

Leeches shown during treatment of
varied conditions

Hirudotherapy, popularly known as leech therapy has also been referred to by other names such as bleeding, leeching, and bloodletting, but basically, it refers to the use of leeches for medical treatment and is one of the methods our ancestors used to cure various ailments

The European specie of leeches (from which Hirudotherapy gets its name) has long been used for medical purposes. Leech therapy dates back to the 1800s, where leech therapists typically used several leeches in each session. Leeches can consume as much as 10 to 15 ml of blood and expand dramatically in size. Once full, they automatically fall off the body, but can be removed using different methods. One technique used is applying salt or salt water, but this can make the leech vomit up the blood, which creates a higher risk of infection.

Leeches shown during treatment of varied conditions

Leeches shown during treatment of
varied conditions

There are many benefits to Hirudotherapy, therefore making it extremely useful to treat various conditions. When a leech bites, its saliva is injected into the patient’s bloodstream. This saliva contains Hirudin, which has an anticoagulant and hemodilution effect, preventing clot formation, which is very important because a clot can travel through the general circulation and block a blood vessel, thereby depriving organs of the necessary blood flow and the nutrients they need. This will cause ischemia and, eventually, failure of the organ involved. This can be fatal if the organ involved is the brain, heart or lungs as it can cause a stroke, heart attack or lung embolism.

Hirudin also helps reduce the blood's thickness, thereby promoting optimum blood flow and preventing the risks associated with sluggish blood flow.

Leech Therapy for Periorbital Hematoma

One of the major features of leech therapy is the ability leeches have of extracting pooled blood. It also has an anti-edematous effect, which is especially helpful as a conservative measure to evacuate pooled blood as in the case of a periorbital hematoma.

Leeches shown during treatment of varied conditions

Leeches shown during treatment of
varied conditions

Periorbital hematoma is hematoma around the eyes - a sac of blood that the body creates to keep internal bleeding to a minimum. In most cases the sac of blood eventually dissolves, however, in some cases they may continue to grow or show no change. If the sac of blood does not disappear, then it may need to be surgically removed.

It usually occurs after a large amount of pressure or force has been applied to the area and something that is definitely common among boxers. This is shown by a bluish green discoloration around the eyes, more popularly known as the ‘black eye.’ Disappearance of pooled blood in this area is particularly slow and can take from several days to a few weeks. Not only is it unsightly, but can cause light-headedness and headaches.

Leech Therapy can be used to immediately evacuate the pooled blood around the eyes so the bluish-green discoloration can disappear after a mere couple of days.


Prevent Progress of Glaucoma


Glaucoma is a condition that occurs when there is too much production of vitreous humor or when there’s a very slow reabsorption of vitreous humor. Vitreous humor is a transparent, jelly-like substance that gives nourishment to the eyes. Too much of it however, can be problematic, where the intra-ocular pressure can increase, causing compression of the eye structures. This causes gradual blurring of vision and slow but certain loss of sight.

Those at risk of developing glaucoma include diabetics, people over the age of 40, and people with a family history of the disease. If detected and treated in its early stages, glaucoma can be controlled and vision can be saved.

Leech Therapy can assist in the progression of this disease. The use of leeches to lessen the rate of blood flow to the eye lessens the production of vitreous humor and thus lessens the pressure inside the eye. Leech therapy can therefore help patients with glaucoma if this procedure is done in regular and frequent intervals and in conjunction with medicines that Ophthalmologists [medical eye specialists] prescribe to lessen the production of vitreous humor and lower the overall blood pressure in the area.

Preventing Eye Inflammation

Another area where leech therapy can be beneficial is eye inflammation. Chorioretinitis [an inflammation of the choroid and retina of the eye], conjunctivitis [inflammation of the conjunctiva of one or both eyes], Keratitis [a condition in which the eye's cornea, the front part of the eye, becomes inflamed] and schleritis [a serious inflammatory disease that affects the white outer coating of the eye, known as the sclera] are just some of eye inflammation disorders.

Eye inflammations are inclined to have blood and other blood components pool in the affected area. This is the body's natural response, where it's attempting to fix whatever's wrong or damage in that area. Unfortunately, the pooling of too much blood causes significant change in the pressure inside the eye and this pressure causes compression and damage to other parts.

During Leech Therapy, blood is sucked out, thereby reducing inflammation. This leads to a reduction in pressure and lessens post-inflammatory complications.

Hirudotherapy also has a rejuvenating effect, where a feeling of vitality and renewed energy is felt by the patient. This is mainly due to relief from pain in certain treated conditions, as well as cleansing of the blood. There are no real explanations, but rather observations that over the centuries, Leech Therapy has indeed been used as a cure for many eye diseases.