Can I Donate Blood If I Have Psoriasis? YES*
The short answer: Yes, psoriasis patients can donate blood. But, like so often is the case in life, there’s an asterisk to show there are exceptions.
However, I was surprised to find out there are only a few disqualifications for psoriasis patients.
The decision to donate
The first time I donated blood was my senior year of high school when I was 17 years old, and I did not have psoriasis at that time.
My chemistry teacher offered extra credit to anyone who signed up to donate. I really wanted to help the community, but to be honest, a little extra credit did sweeten the pot.
The restriction came with treatment
Over time, I tried to donate blood a few times each year, only being turned away when my iron levels were too low. Even after my psoriasis diagnosis in my late 20s, I was allowed to donate and was never told I couldn’t based solely on my disease.
That all changed when I started taking methotrexate. The donation center staff couldn’t provide a good answer if this medication made me ineligible. I got frustrated and walked out.
The confusion escalated when I started taking a biologic. Turns out, there are many psoriasis patients in the same boat as me.
The national standard of blood donation
I spoke with Dr. Ross Herron, Divisional Chief Medical Officer for the American Red Cross Blood Services, to clear up some confusion. While there are other blood banks across the United States, Dr. Herron said the American Red Cross accounts for 40-45% of all blood donations.
For the purpose of this article, we will only discuss the standards for the American Red Cross.
Know the requirments
The American Red Cross has a national standard for donating blood. It is the same in every state.
If you are an otherwise healthy person – not feeling sick, don't have an infection, at least 17 years old and weigh 110 pounds – and you meet the other “regular donor” eligibility requirements, psoriasis patients will probably get a green light.
This is true even if you are on the following systemic and biologic medications: Cimzia (certolizumab pegol), Enbrel (etanercept), Humira (adalimumab), Remicade (infliximab), Simponi (golimumab), Simponi Aria (golimumab), Stelara (ustekinumab), Cosentyx (secukinumab), Taltz (ixekizumab), Siliq (brodalumab), Orencia (abatacept), Tremfya (guselkumab), Ilumya (tildrakizumab-asmn), Otezla (apremilast), cyclosporine, and methotrexate.
When can psoriasis exclude you?
Dr. Herron said there are a few instances where otherwise healthy psoriasis patients may be deferred:
- Plaques that occur in the creases of your arms. This will make it difficult to get a needle in your veins.
- Plaques that are bloody or are open wounds. This may be a sign of infection, and the medical director may be consulted for a determination of eligibility.
- Some medications.Acitretin (soriatane) has a three-year deferral from the last dose, and those who have taken Tegison (etretinate) are never eligible due to these medications’ high risk of birth defects.
Why should you donate blood?
Simply put, it saves lives. “There is only one source for blood transfusions available in the country, and that is volunteer blood donors. There is no artificial blood. There are no pharmaceutical companies that make blood.
So, it comes from blood donors coming in to donate blood at blood centers, and blood centers providing that blood to hospitals for patients. That’s the number one reason that blood centers exist,” Dr. Herron said. "
How often can you donate blood?
According to the American Red Cross’ eligibility standards, healthy people can donate whole blood every 56 days and every 7-14 days for platelets.
Despite this frequency, Dr. Herron said that there is often a shortage of blood during the summer months and the time between Thanksgiving and the New Year.
He said this is because people are off work and often go on vacation. "There is no vacation time for patients, so we need blood donors year-round," he said.
What about plasma?
To donate plasma, Dr. Herron suggests contacting the Plasma Protein Therapeutics Association (PPTA) for plasma donation guidelines and standards, but if eligible, you can donate twice each week.
Only select American Red Cross blood donation centers also collect plasma, but its donation frequency is only every 28 days. The PPTA website can help you find plasma donation centers in your area. Be sure to ask what the donation frequency is for your center.
The need for donations
Dr. Herron said, "For the psoriasis community, don't feel that just because you have psoriasis, that you aren't eligible to donate blood and rule yourself out. Make sure that you come in and read the information online.
Come in and take the health history questionnaire and pass all those questions that we have to become an active blood donor. We encourage anybody who has an interest in being an active blood donor to do that because we need blood year-round."
To find an American Red Cross blood center or to schedule an appointment to donate, visit redcrossblood.org.
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