“Veronica from Estonia has emailed asking about a new treatment that is being promoted over in Eastern Europe for varicose veins. It appears that there has been a recommendation for using leeches for the treatment of varicose veins.
There doesn’t appear to be any good logic for this. As we know, varicose veins are actually a dilation of the vein wall, caused by blood falling down the veins because the valves are not working properly in them and so the ones near the surface end up becoming varicose. But what leeches actually do is cling on to the skin and with their little teeth inject anti-coagulant locally, which enters the bloodstream and stops blood clotting. This allows them just to suck the blood at will. Now of course if you remove the blood from varicose veins it’s just replaced by even more blood so it is not a treatment for varicose veins.
The only possible thing it could be useful for is if there was a thrombophlebitis. In other words, if the vein had a clot in it, then using a leech to break down that clot might be useful but I think there are probably better ways to do this with our usual phlebitis treatments.”