Sociological Investigation Of The Leech And Its Health Strategies Research Paper

Type of paper: Research Paper

Topic: Leech, Therapy, Psychology, Blood, Medicine, Health, Nursing, People

Pages: 10

Words: 2750

Published: 2020/12/14

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Sociology assumes that in order to gain a properly functioning society that performs to its utmost standards, one needs to have good social health standards and strategies to control and contain illness. According to sociological beliefs, a health strategy is a plan or policy designed to contain diseases and illnesses in society and reduce them to the minimum possible level so that society can continue to function to its utmost potential. In sociology, to qualify as a sick person (or one who is suffering from some form of illness) you need to have four important characteristics.
First of all, a sick man must not be held responsible for being sick. The fact that he/she is unwell is entirely a matter of chance in sociology. Next, a sick man is usually not held responsible for not being able to perform his normal duties since he is not fit enough to do so. A sick man is not supposed to like his condition and must have an active desire to get better so he can start performing his social duties once more. Lastly, a sick man is actively supposed to seek help from others to try and get better. This usually constitutes getting medical help.
A person who does not show any interest in getting better to return to his duties is not considered to be sick, and society shows no interest in helping him. In additional cases, family and friends may demonstrate compassion for a bit, but drop tolerance for the victim and think that he or she is looking for attention or is a valetudinarian.
Even though many rely on science as the lone determinant of illness, the sociological opinion points out that the social order regulates illness as well. For example, the ethos described diseases as genuine if they have a strong “scientific” or lay judgments, such as cancer or heart disease (Weinfeld, 2000).
In the day's bygone, people considered illnesses such as chemical dependence, whether drugs or alcohol-based, as character faults and deprived the sick role to those who had such a compulsion. Nowadays, drug recovery programs and the wider belief usually identify compulsions as a sickness, even though the word “illness” is pathologically disputed.
The material artifact chosen for this essay is the leech and health strategies associated with the said creature. Leeches are basically bloodsucking worms who belong to the phylum Annelida group and are included in the subclass Hirudinea. Since they thrive on blood, they have two suckers on their body, one on each end (Kalender, 2010).
Even though they can be found I both marine and terrestrial environments, they are prone to watery conditions. Out of the seven hundred species of leeches, only about ninety can be found in dry areas while others either thrive in marine conditions or in freshwater.
Leeches have been used in bloodletting for thousands of years now, and leech therapy is still being used in many modern scientific circles. Initially, many modern scientists and doctors have been hesitant about the use of leeches in modern medicinal practices but a number of incidents have proven that where many other methods fail, leech therapy works wonders.
The success of the method can be judged by the fact that it is FDA approved since it has no negative impacts. After thousands of years of use, the FDA was finally compelled to give leeches the status of a medical device. Ricarimpex SAS, a French firm, is the very first to apply for and get FDA authorization to sell leeches in the U.S. as medicinal devices. The company has been reproducing leeches for 150 years in a verified place and kept an eye on each lot of leeches it yields.
In allowing leeches as a health tool, the FDA states that it studied the writings on leeches’ usage in health and assessed the security data given by Ricarimpex.
In the next section, we will review a summary of the history of leech usage in medicine all over the world.

Historical Background

The practice of using leeches to restore blood flow by applying living leeches to the affected area is called leeching. The therapeutic leech has demonstrated its usefulness in medication through its unusual mouthparts and the pharmacologically vigorous constituents existing in its saliva. Hirudomedicinalis has three jaws with around 100 piercing teeth on each external lip. The leech will first attach its suckers into the patient’s skin by opening its mouth and cutting into the skin.
The saliva of the leech is known to have pain anesthetizers which are realized immediately after the worm bites into the affected area so that the bite is virtually painless. It also dilutes blood flow so that more blood is drawn to the site of the bite and all contaminated blood flows to the leech’s mouth. Leech saliva comprises of a specific enzyme that encourages a rapid debauchery of matters in the leech saliva away from the bite area.
Amongst these substances, we have hirudin, a naturally produced polypeptide that constrains the movements of thrombin, one of the enzymes that enable blood coagulation. This potent anticoagulant,was primarily recognized in 1884 but was not secluded in cleansed form until the 1950s, is mainly accountable for the increased bleeding that is a result of a leech bite, although additional influences are also involved. Hirudin has been fashioned in marketable numbers through hereditary engineering methods.
The use of leeches in medicine is thousands of years old, and the first documented use of the worm can be seen in old Sanskrit writings of the Indian physicians Caraka and Suśruta. These are as old as the beginning of the Common Era. Later on, in 129 – 212 A.D. the Greco-Roman doctors also usually employed the help of leeches to cure wounds and other affected areas of the body. From there, the practice spread through the entire Roman Empire and consequently, a large part of the world. The practice became so common that more often than not, doctors were referred to as “leeches”.
However, the most common use of leeches in medicine has always been in the European and American areas where, at the beginning of the nineteenth century, leeches were so widely used that many historians referred to the practice as “leech mania”. Leeches were involved in the art of bloodletting where a number of Parisian hospitals engaged in the practice of drawing blood from patients.
Not to mention, the leech therapies became more of a fashion than treatment for more reasons than one. First one being that the method was unique and unorthodox, so people began using it just to be able to tell that they had received a very latest “treatment” for the correction in their blood flow.
Another reason is that it is normally considered quite disgusting and rather disturbing to use an insect of a heinous sort to suck blood out of one’s body even if it is for medicinal use. Same is the case with the eating of insects for protein by people in some areas of the world especially in the Australasian countries. People underwent leech therapies just to make themselves look more daring and gutsy.
It was observed that people were not turned away as much as expected by the appearance of the leech therapies. Instead, it is considered as one of the more turning on factors in this matter. The European and American trends of getting tattoos on the body and sometimes on the entire body justifies this otherwise nomadic looking inclination towards leech therapies for fashion’s sake.
According to records, as much as three hundred thousand liters of blood was drawn from patients admitted in Paris with the help of five to six million leeches. In some severe cases, patients would lose nearly eighty percent of the blood in their bodies as a means of blood transfusion when the illness was severe. Bloodletting through leeching became the most common medical application of the said era with the practice happening all over Europe and America.
Patients were more than happy to submit themselves to the procedure in order to prevent or tackle illnesses. In the early nineteenth century, over forty-one million leeches were imported into France with only about ten million exported out.
Leech farms became incredibly common, and this was primarily where people were breeding leeches for medicinal purposes. In fact, breeding leeches became so common a practice that often, a sick horse or donkey was taken to a leech pool and thrown in so that the leeches could feed on him. Leeches would sometimes eat so much that they would die of indigestion. However, they would indefinitely cure the cattle and serve the purpose well enough. Joseph Victor, a medical doctor in Napoleon’s army, was so obsessed with leeches that he would often apply fifty to sixty leeches on patients with certain maladies.
In that day and age, the very best leeches for medicinal purposes were found in Hungary and Sweden and the countries used to breed leeches specifically for the purpose of selling the animals to French hospitals. The leeches bred in these areas were mostly transported to the affected areas in boxes full of sand, sod, and clay, and they had to be kept moist for the leeches to survive the long journey.
One should care to mention here how quickly this medicinal treatment gave rise to a whole new industry that flourished very quickly. Although, since the treatment was a very selected one and hence could not result in birth of a multi-billion dollar industry yet it caused enough ripples in the medicinal industry to shift a few people to it from their regular capsule and tablet based medicines.
Those were the days when it was very much argued about whether such a treatment should even be carried out at the first place. There were so many arguments against the leech therapy back then that it was nothing short of a miracle how it still flourished enough to be what it is now. The very first anti argument was about the transfer of bacteria and viruses from the leech mouth to the body of the patient.
It was claimed that it can cause infections from the viruses that leech might vomit into the patient’s body. The argument back then was well supported and in those days there were no sound and trusted means of cleansing of leeches and giving them anti-bacterial treatments to neutralize any such possibility.
These leeches were not easy to handle and to use as well, they rather required a careful technique that needed to be learned beforehand practicing the treatment. Before being put to use, the leeches would have to be handled very carefully, and they would be put in a glass of water or wine with clean hands and kept away from all kinds of medicinal smells. Water helped leeches bite into the skin better. The cup would often be removed after the leeches had bitten into the patient’s skin. Often, they would suck up so much blood that they would drop off, dead.
Other times, they would have to be encouraged to bite into the skin as they were well fed and showed no enthusiasm to suck more blood. A moist cloth was placed under them to catch moisture, water, blood and often, the leeches if they dropped off. Many physicians often used to complain about reluctant or unhelpful leeches that would not do their duty. A solution to this was to drop them into a bucket full of beer to get them drunk out of their senses. After that, one only had to place them near warm skin, and they would start sucking on the blood by following their natural instinct.
Even the dullest leeches would perform to their utmost. Another solution was to keep them in a pint jar and giving them water and something to eat twice a week. In other words, leeches were starved so that when they were finally applied to human beings, they would do their jobs quickly and eagerly (Conforti, 2002).
In the early nineteenth century, leeches were also used in dentistry quite commonly. Doctors used to treat cases of Oroantral fistula by applying five to six leeches on the face of the affected. Sometimes, leeches were applied to the gums to drain them of excessive blood as well. Tubes were used to make sure the application of leeches was done carefully and according to specifics.
Leeches would, however, often transmit diseases from one person to another if the same leech was used on two different people. Leeches were also used to treat odontalgia, periodontitis, and alveolar abscess. Dentists in the 1800s would also use leeches to cure cavities in the maxillary central incisor and would report back that the therapy was successful. The cavities would almost disappear, the swelling would decrease, and the pain would be almost gone too.
While leech therapy was quite successful, it was not without its drawbacks. Throughout the era of leech mania, there was one reported death caused by the use of leeches in dentistry. A patient was experiencing a bad toothache, and his physician convinced him to use leech therapy on the area that pained. Two hours later, the patient reported back with inflammation of lips, gums, and neck. The next morning, the dentist was called into a hospital where his patient was admitted with his head inflamed and his condition worsening with every second. Twenty-four hours later, he expired as a result of blood poisoning. Although there was not enough time to prove anything, it was quite clear that the patient died of blood poisoning.
VAS score is the Visual Analogue Scale score that is used to measure psychometric responses from the respondent. The purpose is to measure rather subjective responses that are not otherwise quantifiable. For example, this scale is used to measure happiness, sadness, anger and the like (Heckmann, 2005).
On this scale, the intensity was ranged from 1 to 5 with 1 at the least and 5 at the highest ends. Patients responded that the element of pain had reduced from 4 to 1 after leech therapy. Similarly, the stiffness after the leech therapy decreases to 0 from 2. The tenderness reduces from 3 to nil, and swelling reduces from 1 to 0. Restricted movements also reduce from 2 to 0 according to this scale. This means that leech therapy is a quantifiably proven way to treat swelling, pain, tenderness, stiffness and restricted movement.
Blood flow needs to remain constant and even throughout the course of life and in the entire body. The reason for this is that if blood flow gets stopped and does not reach in the toes and fingers, then there is high chance that the particular body part will get paralyzed and may even be needed to cut off. This is a common sign of diabetes. Upon obstruction in the flow of blood, blood vessels and tissues of the drying out part of the body eventually go on to die. First it loses function and then its appearance begins to look like it has been juiced out.
Sociologically, leeches and leech therapy has somewhat earned a great respect amongst the specialists of medicine and social science as it has done miracles for so many people worlds over. Where this method of using leeches for medicinal purposes was originally discovered by very remote and local people, its popularity in the modern day medicine is also unquestioned.
Demographically speaking, most of the patients of leech therapies are the people between the age 51 and 60 years. The upper middle aged people are more inclined towards using this therapy. Statistics shows that 50% of patients are between this age group. Total almost 77% people using this therapy are between 41 and 60 years of age.
Another interesting fact is that amongst the leech therapy users, 64% patients are women and just 36% men patients have used the therapy under normal circumstances. Also, nonvegetarians constitute 66% of the patient count that uses the therapy while only 33% vegetarians use it (Nguyen, 2012).
In a very recent case, a sixty years old woman who had diabetes has been saved from being cut her foot off by using leech therapy. The sixty-year-old says she is indebted and rightly so. Practitioners believe that as few as four leeches used in a therapy can be of a great help in purifying the human blood (Michalsen, 2011).
The leech handlers or medicinal practitioners of leech therapy have to care for leeches greatly, and the age of the incest describes what kind of care it needs. Younger leeches are usually comfortable at higher temperatures and do not mind if the temperatures get kicked up a notch during the medicinal treatment whereas the older aged leeches do not get discomforted with the lower temperatures that younger ones die in.


Today, leeching is referred to as alternative medicine and people opt for it when they want to go for something that does not hurt yet worked just as well as everything else. In certain areas, leeching is a lot cheaper than the regular medical cure one can have. For example, in Birmingham, the Polish community is increasingly opting for leech therapy and the clientele for that is strong. Moreover, leeches can used to cure everything right from migraines to cancers and the like. It is actively used as a common way to rid people of pain slowly but surely. Many people also consider leech therapy to be generally healthy as it allows the old, used blood to be sucked out of the body and encourages the body to produce more blood, in the long run. Leech therapy, even today, is known for work when other, more conventional methods of therapy refuse to work.
However, if leech therapy became as common as it once was, it could be highly dangerous for the social order of things. During the early nineteenth century, leech therapy was considered to be so popular that the leech population was drastically affected by the frequency with which leeches were being taken out of their natural habitat and sold off to doctors and physicists.
Leech therapy is one form of treatment that even the most unwilling patient will be okay with since it does not hurt. Moreover, it is cheap and means that not much will have to be invested in the health department while diseases will continue to be cured.

Works Cited

Weinfeld, Adam B., et al. "Clinical and scientific considerations in leech therapy for the management of acute venous congestion: an updated review."Annals of plastic surgery 45.2 (2000): 207- 212.
Kalender, Mehmet Emin, et al. "Leech therapy for symptomatic relief of cancer pain." Pain Medicine 11.3 (2010): 443-445.
Conforti, Michael L., et al. "Evaluation of performance characteristics of the medicinal leech (Hirudo medicinalis) for the treatment of venous congestion."Plastic and reconstructive surgery 109.1 (2002): 228-235.
Nguyen, Marilyn Q., et al. "Outcomes of flap salvage with medicinal leech therapy." Microsurgery 32.5 (2012): 351-357.
Michalsen, Andreas, Manfred Roth, and Gustav J. Dobos. Medicinal leech therapy. Thieme, 2011.
Heckmann, J. G., et al. "Leech therapy in the treatment of median nerve compression due to forearm hematoma." Journal of Neurology, Neurosurgery & Psychiatry 76.10 (2005): 1465-1465.

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