Some blood banks may accept donations if lupus is inactive or a person is in remission and healthy at the time of donation. People with lupus may also be able to donate plasma for research purposes.

Lupus refers to a group of autoimmune conditions where the immune system mistakenly attacks many different body parts and organs. As it is an autoimmune condition, blood donation criteria previously listed lupus as a permanent deferral. This meant people with lupus were ineligible to donate blood. However, while guidelines remain vague, some blood banks may accept donations from people living with lupus.

Every day, blood donations help save lives. In the United States, roughly 29,000 units of red blood cells are necessary to help keep people in good health.

However, only 37% of the population is eligible to donate. This is because blood centers place strict eligibility requirements on donors to help ensure their own health and the health of others.

In this article, we discuss the eligibility requirements for blood donation and how the procedure takes place.

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Whether a person with lupus is eligible to donate blood depends on a few different factors, such as a person’s health status and where they choose to donate blood.

For example, the American Red Cross does not rule out donations from those with chronic illnesses such as lupus. However, it states a person must feel well, have the condition under control, and meet all other eligibility criteria. This includes not using immunosuppressants called Cellcept and Arava within the last 6 weeks. The Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center (MSKCC) also accepts blood donations if a person does not have active symptoms.

The Joint United Kingdom Blood Transfusion Services Professional Advisory Committee (JPAC) also accepts blood donations if a person has not received treatment for lupus within the last 12 months, and the condition has not had affected their heart.

Similarly, the New Zealand Blood Service also allows people with lupus to donate as long as they did not take any treatment to suppress the condition within the last 12 months.

However, other organizations have different eligibility criteria and may not accept donations.

For example, the Primacy Biliary Cholangitis Organization (PBCers) does not accept donations from people with autoimmune diseases due to the many unknown factors linked to their conditions.

Additionally, the following organizations do not accept donations from individuals with lupus:

Deferring donation is often to protect the donor from potential health complications, as lupus may affect the person’s ability to tolerate blood donation and worsen the disease’s severity. Lupus and lupus treatments can cause several blood and blood vessel problems, including:

Most people who are in good health may give blood. Below are the basic requirements for donating blood according to the United States Food and Drug Administration (FDA):

  • pulse and blood pressure within acceptable limits
  • normal temperature
  • acceptable blood hemoglobin level
  • free of infections or risk factors linked with exposure to such infections
  • not have donated blood in the last 8 weeks
  • meet the minimum age requirement per state laws

The following conditions can also defer a person from giving blood:

  • feeling ill on the day of donation, like having a cold, flu, sore throat, and other infections
  • recent use of injectable illegal drugs
  • males who have had sexual contact with another male in the past 3 months
  • receiving a tattoo in the past 3 months in a state that does not regulate tattoo facilities
  • taking certain medications
  • having certain medical conditions
  • living in or traveling to endemic areas

It is best to contact the blood bank where a person wishes to donate blood to determine their eligibility requirements.

According to the FDA, the entire blood donation process may take about an hour.

The process typically begins with a pre-donation screening, where a blood bank employee will ask questions about a person’s health, lifestyle, and disease risk factors. This is typically when a person would disclose they have lupus and what medications they are currently taking. The employee will also perform a short health exam and test a drop of blood.

After prescreening, a healthcare professional will clean a person’s arm with antiseptic and use a blood donation kit to draw blood from a vein in the arm. A person will donate one unit of blood, which will take roughly 8–10 minutes. After donation, a person will go to a refreshments area where they can wait until they feel strong enough to leave.

Healthcare professionals may discourage people with lupus from donating blood because they are at a higher risk of potential complications. For example, they may be more susceptible to developing infections due to immunosuppressant medications or depending on a person’s triggers, donating blood may also trigger a flare-up or worsen flares.

Additionally, lupus can affect the cardiovascular system. For example, many people with active lupus commonly experience anemia. As such, many blood services do not accept donations from individuals with anemia as they are at risk of low hemoglobin levels.

Blood banks usually discourage plasma donation from people with lupus because of the antibodies in their blood. However, this may be valuable for research purposes. While some blood banks may not permit people with autoimmune diseases to donate blood, they may be able to sell or donate their plasma for research purposes.

Click here to learn more about donating plasma.

Depending on the blood bank and a person’s health status, an individual living with lupus may be able to donate blood. Eligibility requirements for donating blood vary widely among centers and countries. If an individual has no active symptoms and is healthy at the time of donation, then they may be able to donate. However, it is advisable to check the blood bank’s donor criteria before donating.

A person with lupus who plans to donate their blood may consider first contacting their doctor to learn about the potential risks of donating blood. If a person is ineligible to donate, they may still be able to sell or donate their plasma for research purposes.