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4 Gruesome Antiquated Medical Treatments That Are Coming Back

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2. Leeches

Using leeches means having “blood-sucking parasite[s] burrowing into [your] skin.” The big black worms may slime around your body: they can fall off and reattach themselves to you somewhere else. Or, once they are full to bursting with your blood, they will just fall off and get lost in your sheets. Welcome, bedmate.

So why put yourself through this? Leeches can be your best bet to help “reattach severed fingers [and] to treat potentially fatal circulation disorders.”

The reattachment thing works like this: say you cut off part of your finger. I know, we’re going from gross to grosser, but bear with me. When the doctor reattaches it, she can sew the arteries together because they are relatively large, but she can’t connect the veins because they are too small. (High school biology flashback: arteries are the ones that pump blood from the heart through the body, and veins take blood back to the heart.) If you have working arteries and no working veins,  you have a finger that is full of blood with nowhere to go.

Leeches are more than happy to help with that. Pop one onto your fingertip and it will just hoover up that extra blood, bringing down the swelling and helping your newly reattached finger and its little veins heal.

Now what would medical worms be without secretions? Leeches’ prevent coagulation so you don’t get blood clots, and act as an anesthetic too. Plus they don’t take out too much blood, just a nice, steady, modest flow. Like any good parasite, if you help the leech, the leech will help you.

Sufferers of hemochromatosis, or iron overload, may also be candidates for the leech treatment. They essentially have too much blood. So think back on all the kooky things doctors used to do and take a guess how they treat people with too much blood. Yep, bloodletting. At least they don’t use it for every ailment anymore.

Studies indicate that leeches may also help sufferers of osteoarthritis of the knee or thumb. Those little suckers are really worming their way back into the medicine chest.

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164 comments

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8:05AM PST on Mar 3, 2013

pretty scary. bleh

4:02PM PST on Jan 10, 2013

I honestly don't see what the issue is, as long as the patient gives their consent. Honestly, I'd rather live, be it due to maggots, leeches and many other fairly gross things if the alternative is dying. If you had your finger cut off, would you stick it in your mouth so there's a chance they can reattach it in the hospital?

Granted, these things are, as you point out, based on old practice, but that doesn't mean that they haven't evolved it. Tools and treatments and basic knowledge gets better every day. Just because it has a bad rep due to the past, doesn't mean its improved form can't be good now.

10:40PM PST on Jan 3, 2013

yuk....hope i never have an ailment that calls for any of these treatments...

1:54PM PST on Jan 1, 2013

I have ever heard that leeches help as medicine but gross....all of these make me yikes!!!



9:45AM PST on Dec 31, 2012

Thalidomide, or Neurosedyn as it was called in Sweden, cost the manufacturers millions and millions in legal fees and restitution all around the world. Now they are taking that back by leaching off needy patients. Nothing surprises me when it comes to Big C, and in this case, Big Pharma.

5:22AM PST on Dec 30, 2012

Well, if they work...

8:10PM PST on Dec 25, 2012

yuck..

2:00PM PST on Dec 25, 2012

Whatever Works.

9:02AM PST on Dec 22, 2012

if its a case of life or maggots then guess it would have to be maggots

5:33PM PST on Dec 19, 2012

Grrrr@thalomid

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