Leech Therapy Usage In Treatment Of Eye Ailments: A Study

Leech Therapy Usage In Treatment Of Eye Ailments: A Study

Usually, various treatments are used in treating eye related problems. One such treatment is leech therapy or also called as hirudotherapy, which is also known as bloodletting and leeching. This therapy is an ancient Greek method suggested by Greek therapists for treating various eye related diseases.

Single type of leech is used in this therapy i.e, hirudo medicinalis or medicinal leech. European species of leeches are used for this therapy. These leeches help in increasing blood circulation and reduces clots.

In Ayurveda, this therapy is called as JALAUKAVACHARAN (leech therapy) which shows promising results, by removal of blood in the deep seared regions of the body.


 The leech therapy mechanism is explained by three kinds of actions namely reflexive, biological and mechanical actions. In reflexive action, the leech clings on the skin and it’s activity is similar to acupuncture.

The saliva of the leech contains various biologically active substances such as hormones, vitamins, enzymes etc. The biological impact is seen by leech on the organism due to a special enzyme, hirudin which has an anticoagulant effect. So leech therapy is extremely useful in treating strokes, heart attacks.

In mechanical action, the blood flow in that region increases due to actions of leech. The sterile and medicinal leeches are made to bite the affected area. The leech bite has many biological effects which helps in quick recovery of the patient and the removal of trapped blood helps in decreasing the effect of the disease.

Use in eye diseases:

The leech therapy has prominent effect in treatment of eye diseases and widely used in ophthalmology.

  • It is used in treating severe glaucoma by reducing pain inside the eye and normalizes the intraocular pressure and helps in improving blood circulation. It helps in removal of an acute attack and      is also useful after antiglaucomatous operations.
  • Useful in treating keratitis, chorioretinitis and other inflammatory eye diseases. The medicinal leeches used in iridocyclitis, helps in reducing intraocular pressure as well as in preventing synechias from occurring and increases the resorption of hypopyon (congestion in anterior chamber of eye). During the treatment of chorioretinitis, rapid regression of symptoms is seen and also the visual functioning is restored.
  • Treatment of obstruction in retina and optic nerve
  • After eye surgery, medicinal leeches quickly reduce the intraocular pressure in the eye, for the patients who have undergone surgeries such as cataract or LASER.
  • It is also useful in treating bruises and swellings around the eye.
  • In cases of burns near the eye, this therapy helps in resorption of scars efficiently by reducing their size. They also produce analgesic effect.
  • Treatment of any kind hemorrhages in the eye tissues such as hemophthalmus, sub-retinal hemorrhage shows rapid resorption of hemorrhages and reduces time taken in healing.
  • Dystrophy of cornea (endothelial or epithelial)
  • In inflammation of optic nerve, the leeches help in reducing the pain and vision improvement is also observed.
  • It reduces blind spot size and visual field expansion.

Leech therapy treatment:

1.In periorbital hematoma:

  In this case, there is a hematoma around the eyes i.e, a blood sac that is created by the body itself to reduce internal bleeding. Usually, the blood sac reduces and gets dissolved. But in rare cases, it doesn’t get dissolved in turn increases in it’s size or remains unchanged and then a surgery is to be performed to remove that sac.

This is seen in boxers and a bluish green discoloration around the eye commonly called as black eye is seen. So, the leech therapy helps in removal of pooled blood in the eye and the black eye disappears after a couple of days. In this area, the pooled blood does not disappear quickly and causes severe headache for many weeks.

2.In glaucoma:

Glaucoma is a condition in which there is increased production of vitreous humor or reduced absorption of vitreous humor. It is a jelly like substance that acts as nourishment to the eye.

People who are aged above 40 and who are diabetic and sometimes genetic are more effected by this disease. It can be treated when it is detected in it’s early stages. It causes blurring of vision and slow loss of sight. It also causes increase in intraocular pressure which leads to compression in eye.

Leech therapy helps in decreasing the rate of blood flow or production of vitreous humor, in turn reducing the pressure inside the eye. So, the patients suffering with glaucoma can be treated using this therapy as it decreases the overall blood pressure in the eye.

3.In eye inflammation:

During inflammation in the eye, the blood and other components are pooled in the affected area as the natural response of the body. However, this pooling of blood causes increase in pressure and this causes compression and damage in other areas, during this therapy, the leeches are made to suck the blood in the affected area, thus reducing inflammation. It also has rejuvenating effect as the patients feel renewal of energy. Mainly reduces the pain and as well as cleansing of blood is observed.

Adverse effects:

Though leech therapy has many benefits in treating various eye related problems, but it also possesses some adverse effects or contraindications such as decreased blood pressure also called as persistent hypotension and sometimes hemophilia i.e, severe blood clotting issues and idiosyncrasy.

Usually for pregnant women, this therapy is implemented only during strict indications and sessions and duration of each session is reduced

Leech usage:

  •  The leeches which are used in this therapy are given a medical treatment and then only they are used on the patients. They are completely sterile and only one is used once per session. Based on the pathology of the disease, the number of sessions and their duration is determined by the specialist.
  • Since a leech is used only once during the session, transmission of various diseases that are transmitted through blood is not possible.
  • Usually, the leech can suck up to 20 ml of blood and it is carefully placed on the affected area. The leech bite can be a little painful bit can be easily bearable. There is an increase in size while sucking the blood.
  •  Once the leech is full, it automatically falls off the body. Various techniques can be used to remove them such as use of salt water or application of salt. But salt causes the leech to vomit the blood thus increasing the infection risk.

Benefits of the therapy:

  • There are various benefits of the leech therapy, which makes it useful in treating various diseases.
  • The hirudin in the saliva of the leech has anticoagulant activity and shows hemodilution effect and prevents clot formation.
  • As the clot can act as a blockage to the blood flow in the blood vessel. It deprives the blood to the necessary organs leading to ischemic condition.
  • Ischemic attack can be fatal if involved in brain or heart or lungs, causing heart attacks or a stroke.
  • Also hirudin has an another effect i.e, decreases blood thickness level thus promoting proper blood flow and reduces the risk of sluggish blood flow.

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