One of the frequent questions we get from people with autoimmune problems is :
“Can I still donate blood?”
Blood donation is a very noble thing to do since each donation saves lives and each community is blessed to have people who have the mind to help. At present, blood banks decline blood donations from people with autoimmune disorders for the following reasons:
Autoimmune diseases have so many unknown factors. Being incurable, there are many factors to consider in transfusing it to patients whose immune systems are already low. Though there are no published clinical studies on the effects yet; some blood centers and hospitals would rather not take the risk.
Patients who have rheumatoid arthritis, Sjogren’s syndrome, lupus and scleroderma can’t are not eligible to give a blood donation to patients because of the medications they are prescribed. Screening patients with these conditions are more likely to have false positive results when some infections that need to be detected. Processing prospective donors with the syndromes will cut a hefty chunk of a blood center’s budget.
Every blood center runs on different policies, patients with thyroid problems are allowed to give blood as long as they don not exhibit symptoms and have not taken their medication for a month prior to donation.
Autoimmune Disease Patients Can still Sell Plasma
Many patients with autoimmune disease may be heartbroken to hear that they cannot give whole blood donation for safety reasons. But people with autoimmune disease (Lupus, Rheumatoid Arthritis, Autoimmune Oophoritis, Psoriasis and Fibromyalgia) can sell their plasma though.
Plasma companies like Seracare Life Sciences and Physician’s Plasma Alliance’s (PPA) pay patients for the plasma that are used for autoimmune disease research purposes. This is a good avenue for patients to participate in a program that could lead to new treatments for patients who share the same conditions. The plasma you give may not be used for life-saving transfusions, but at least you can help improving lives in other ways by participating in drug development and diagnostic research.
The PPA, for instance, pays between $50 to $500 or more every time you sell plasma, depending on the study.
What is an autoimmune disease?
Autoimmune disease is an erroneous immune response of the body against substances and tissues that are naturally found in our bodies. Normally, the immune system’s white blood cells help defend the body from antigens – the foreign substances that are harmful such as bacteria, virus, cancer cells, toxins, and blood or tissues from another person or species. When the autoimmune system breaks down, it also starts to attack the cells that are healthy.
Autoimmune disease affects one or more organ or tissue type in the body that includes the skin, muscles, blood vessels, joints, red blood cells, connective tissues and endocrine glands such as the pancreas and thyroid.
Autoimmune breakdown exhibit common symptoms: fatigue, fever and general ill-feeling. The best way to which of the 80 types of autoimmune disease is to consult a doctor. All of the types of this sickness are incurable, what patients have going for them are the treatments available to stop the worsening condition of the disease. People related to people with autoimmune disease are more likely to have the disease. The only thing they could do is to take preventive measures; like eating a healthy diet and proper daily exercise.
The cause of autoimmune disease remains a mystery but one theory suggests that some microorganisms or drugs can alter the way the system functions. In some cases, autoimmune disease is passed down from the genes of an individual. Once this gene is triggered, the disease will start to break down a body’s defense system. This type of disorder may lead to the destruction of any of the cells in the body, cause irregular growth of an organ and change organ function.
American Red Cross vs. National Institutes of Health (NIH) stand on Lupus patients blood donation
Lupus patients were once not allowed to give blood by the Red Cross but this rule does not apply anymore to them. Red Cross now allows lupus patients to shed a pint even while taking medications as Plaquenil and/or Corticosteroids. However, the National Institutes of Health does not accept blood donations from these patients because they believe that without full understanding of the roots of autoimmune diseases and the role of antibodies, they can’t guarantee full safety of the blood transfusion process to the recipient
While eligible blood donors out there still need persuasion before they roll up their sleeves, there are also people with autoimmune disorders who would have done whatever it takes for them to give blood. But being deferred on blood donations doesn’t mean they can’t help anymore. They also have an important role to play in the medical community if they chose to sell their plasma. The fact that autoimmune disease patients can sell their plasma is not new anymore, but we hope patients take advantage of this opportunity to be able to help the medical community create the needed treatments.
Together, we can help one another as long as we intend to.