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Friday, 10 April 2009

Medical importance of Leeches

Leeches (known as LUBA in swahili language) are 'worms' with suckers on each end, there are about 600 different species, by which 15 of them are of medicinal importance. They have been used for medicinal purposes for centuries now, however the use has been increased dramatically nowadays especially in developed world.

They live anywhere in water collection. They usually feed (Blood sucking ones) after puncturing the skin and use teeth to hook and suck considerable amount of blood, thus do not feed frequently. The first meal for the maggot stimulate growth of teeth from the observation of those who harbours leeches for multiplication. But in nature, it is yet to be known how do they develop teeth.

During the bite, leeches secretes saliva which has a complex mixture of different biologically and pharmacologically active substances into the wound. Hirudin is the best known component of leech saliva which has a large role in medicine.

The general indications for leech therapy are: Inflammatory Reactions, Heart Diseases (heart attacks and strokes), Rheumatic Diseases, Tendovaginitis and Tendinitis.
Others includes Venous Disease and Varicose Veins, Arthrosis, Arthritis, Muscle Tension, Antidyscratic therapy (blood purification and regeneration) of toxicoses as well as mental illnesses.
Thrombosis and embolism, Passive congestions and spastic conditions, Vertebrogenic pain syndromes, transudates and exudates are also treated with leaches.

They have one important advantage, no known side effects as compared to other alternative medicines.

Personally, I have encountered leeches in 2 occassions, it was a frightening moment when I was at the age of 7 years, while swimming, I noted a worm-like creature stuck on my toe, which I fail to remove, I had to ran out of water and someone put a cigarette over it, it suddely leaves me and went off. 2nd occasion occured when I was working in water on my teens, and I had a terrible cut wound from sharp stone in water following an anaesthetic bite from leech (was a shock after observing I was bleeding underwater while something brown clugged my skin at bleeding site), surprisingly that wound healed very fast within few days without any treatment. I never knew anything about those "frightening" creatures by then. So, I decided to share with you little knowledge I know now about leeches.

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