One of the simplest ways to give back to the community – and potentially save a life in the process – is to donate blood. People with lupus may want to donate, but shy away from the process because they think the disease might make them ineligible.
The good news: Those with lupus will be happy to learn that lupus may not be a barrier to donate blood – may not because each blood bank and donation service will have different requirements and guidelines for acceptable donor status. For example, the American Red Cross once barred those with lupus from donating, but no longer does.
The bad news: A search of general blood donation guidelines, such as those through the Providence Health & Services in California, reveals that autoimmune diseases like lupus remain a disqualifier for some. And though the Red Cross does accept donations from lupus patients, the disease must be inactive or in remission and the person must feel healthy at the time.
If you are able to donate, it is a noble endeavor, as one blood donation can help save up to three lives. According to the Red Cross, every two seconds someone in the U.S. needs blood and only 5 percent of the eligible population donates in a given year. There is no blood substitute and donors are the only source of blood. Donated blood is used not only in emergencies, but also for people who have cancer, blood disorders, sickle cell, anemia and other illnesses.
Before You Donate
Discuss the issue with your healthcare professional. Though you may feel healthy, she may have specific reasons why you should not donate, including the type of medication you might be on (though corticosteroids and Plaquenil are not on the Red Cross’s list of ineligible medications).
Check blood donation guidelines of the place where you plan to donate. Some organizations will not accept blood from those with lupus or other autoimmune diseases. Typical reasoning is because not enough is known about the disease to ensure a zero risk to those who will receive blood.
Besides whole blood, blood products, such as plasma and red blood cells, are often given to those in need. These components are separated from whole blood. Typically, plasma and antibodies found in blood from lupus patients are the cause for concern among healthcare professionals. Red blood cells and platelets are usually thought to be safe for donation.
Sources: General Questions About Lupus Lupus Foundation of America. January 2009.