The symptoms can include pain and fatigue in the legs, swollen ankles and calves, burning or itching skin, skin discoloration and leg ulcers. In less severe cases, thin, discolored vessels – “spider veins” – may be the only symptom.
We evaluated the effectiveness of medicinal leech therapy in producing venous decongestion, reversal of oedema, hyperpigmentation and healing of varicose ulcer(s). Whether the leech selectively sucks venous blood was also investigated. Hirudo medicinalis (medicinal leech) was applied to the area surrounding the varicose ulcer(s) in 20 patients with varicose veins with complications and the patients monitored for ulcer healing, and decrease in hyperpigmentation, oedema and limb girth
After leech therapy all the ulcers showed healing, while 95 per cent of patients showed a decrease in oedema and limb girth. Seventy five per cent patients demonstrated a decrease in hyperpigmentation.
Thus it appears from this study that the medicinal leech sucks venous blood and aids ulcer healing, and can probably therefore be used as an effective adjunct in the management of complicated varicose veins.