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Can Diabetics Donate Blood?

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Can Diabetics Donate Blood?

If you have diabetes, you may have wondered if you can donate blood or plasma. The American Red Cross says that 6.8 million people in the U.S. donate blood, and the Red Cross provides about 40% of the nation’s blood and blood cell components to donors. Many people regularly donate blood, while others donate during times of a local or national need. But can people with diabetes donate blood?

Why donate blood?

Donating blood is done, primarily, to save lives. In fact, every blood donation can help save or improve the lives of at least three people, says the Mayo Clinic Health System. There’s a constant need for blood because it can only be stored for a limited amount of time. Also, blood donation is dependent upon having a sufficient number of healthy (and willing) people to ensure that blood is available whenever and wherever it is needed, according to the World Health Organization.

Blood donations are used for people who need surgery, transfusions, and cancer treatment. Also, because there are different blood types, a diverse supply of blood is needed, not just for the four major groups (A, B, AB, and O), but for rare blood types, as well. For example, U-negative and Duffy-negative blood types are unique to the African American community.

Types of blood donations

There are different types of blood donations and these are based on your blood type and what the need is. Donation types include:

  • Whole blood donation, which is the blood that flows through your veins. This is the most flexible type of donation and can be transfused in its original form or separated into red cells, plasma and platelets.
  • Power Red donation, in which a special machine is used to allow you to donate two units of red blood cells during one donation.
  • Platelet donation, in which a machine collects platelets (these help blood to clot) and returns red blood cells back to you.
  • Plasma donation, in which you give plasma, the largest part of the blood. Red blood cells and platelets are returned back to you.

There are various requirements for which types of donations you can make.

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Can you donate blood if you have diabetes?

In short, the answer is “yes.” The American Red Cross states, “Diabetics who are well controlled on insulin or oral medications are eligible to donate.” They go on to say that, “Donors with diabetes who take any kind of insulin are eligible to donate as long as their diabetes is well controlled.”

You do need to meet general requirements of being in good health, weighing at least 110 pounds, and being 16 years of age in most states. Also, in order to meet the Red Cross definition of “well controlled,” make sure that your blood sugar levels are within your target range at least several days before you donate.

Keep in mind that your health care provider may recommend a longer period of time between donations compared with people who don’t have diabetes.

However, you may have other conditions related to diabetes that can impact your ability to donate blood. These include:

  • Blood pressure that is above 180 (the top number) and/or above 100 (the bottom number, and blood pressure that is below 95/50
  • Recent (within the last six months) heart-related symptoms such as chest pain, angina, heart attack, angioplasty, or bypass surgery
  • A pulse that is above 100 or less than 50

Apart from diabetes and related conditions, you will not be able to donate blood if you:

  •  Are ill with a cold, flu, COVID, or other types of illness
  •  Have low hemoglobin (below 12.5 g/dl for females and below 13 g/dl for males)

Will donating blood affect your blood sugar levels afterwards?

It’s not expected that donating blood will greatly impact your blood sugars after you donate blood, but it’s a good idea to monitor your glucose levels carefully for a few days after the donation. Also, be sure to drink plenty of fluids and include foods high in iron in your diet afterwards.

It’s possible that donating blood can falsely lower your hemoglobin A1C after donating blood due to blood loss and accelerated blood cell turnover.

For more information about blood donation, visit the Red Cross’s website.

Want to learn more diabetes basics? Read “Welcome to Diabetes” for type 2, “Type 1 Diabetes Questions and Answers” for type 1, and “Gestational Diabetes: Are You at Risk?” for gestational diabetes.

Amy Campbell, MS, RD, LDN, CDCES

Amy Campbell, MS, RD, LDN, CDCES

Amy Campbell, MS, RD, LDN, CDCES on social media

A Registered Dietitian and Certified Diabetes Educator at Good Measures, LLC, where she is a CDE manager for a virtual diabetes program. Campbell is the author of Staying Healthy with Diabetes: Nutrition & Meal Planning, a co-author of 16 Myths of a Diabetic Diet, and has written for  publications including Diabetes Self-Management, Diabetes Spectrum, Clinical Diabetes, the Diabetes Research & Wellness Foundation’s newsletter, DiabeticConnect.com, and CDiabetes.com

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