Annually, around 6.8 million people in the US donate blood, which is the true mark of yeoman service, going much beyond the word donation. Blood donated in time saves life, helps the restoration of health of patients and is one of the most important requirements in surgical procedures. However, patients with type 1 or 2 diabetes often seem to be bewildered and confused if can diabetics donate blood. To be more precise, the doubts are primarily about the impact of blood donation on the health of the donor and the recipient. We will now set out to present the facts and dispel the apprehensions associated with the noble act of diabetics donating blood.

What is blood ‘donor deferral’ and is it relevant to the question can diabetics donate blood?

Blood banks have a policy of ‘donor deferral’ which effectively means that the donor is ineligible to donate blood for a particular period. The donor will then have to return after the deferral period and be re-evaluated to check if he or she meets the criteria for donating blood. ‘Donor deferral’ is intended to safeguard the health of the donor as well as the recipient of the blood. There are multiple reasons for deferral, and is relevant in the context of the question – can diabetics donate blood, as it helps categorize the reasons for deferral. Common reasons for donor deferral include the following :

· Individuals who have tested positive for HIV.

· Males who have had same gender sexual relations in the preceding year.

· Individuals who have a history of substance abuse through needles.

· Individuals who have been treated or undergoing treatment for Chagas, Psoriasis and CJD (Creutzfeldt-Jakob Disease).

· Individuals who indulge in sexual acts for monetary consideration.

· Individuals who have resided in the UK or France for a particular period (beginning from 1980).

The list above does not specifically mention any bar on individuals who are diabetic. However, it is important to understand the last reason for ‘donor deferral’. It may appear cryptic for individuals who are unaware of the background behind the reason.


Specific reasons for ‘donor deferral’ that answer the question – can diabetics donate blood?

The main reason why donors who have resided in the UK or France for a specific period after 1980 are deferred is the bovine source of insulin. From the year 1980 onwards, bovine source insulin has been used in the UK and France and this creates concerns about bovine spongiform encephalopathy. In other words, concerns about mad cow disease are the reason why donors are deferred.

To answer the question can diabetics donate blood – donors with diabetes controlled by diet, insulin or any other oral medication are free to donate blood barring one single exception. Granulocyte collection involves the use of corticosteroids, and this has an adverse impact on the blood glucose control among diabetics. Therefore, donors with diabetics who intend to donate blood for granulocyte collection are deferred from donating. In addition to the impact of the corticosteroids on the donor, granulocytes collected from diabetics will also have a negative impact on the recipient. Apart from this specific condition, there is no bar on diabetics from donating blood.

Effects experienced after blood donation

The possibility of blood donors experiencing certain effects after donating blood exist and this is one of the reasons why individuals are apprehensive of donating blood. One of the reasons for this apprehension is the blood glucose levels in insulin dependent diabetics. Depending on the insulin dependency levels, individuals are likely to experience some kind of an impact on blood glucose control after donating blood. This may result in complications in the individuals in the clinic or on the way back after the blood donation.

Individuals who have managed to keep blood sugar levels under control through oral hypoglycemics and diet belong to the safest category among diabetics, when it comes to donating blood. In other words, an individual with diabetes that is under control with oral medication and diet can safely donate blood – this answers the question can diabetics donate blood.

Precautions that need to be taken by diabetics after blood donation

The body replaces the volume of blood that has been donated within 48 hours, and the red blood cells which go with the blood donation are replenished in around four weeks after the donation. There are a few precautions that can be taken after blood donation which will help to prevent undesirable experiences.

#1 Avoid bruising and injuries around the arm where the needle was inserted during blood donation.

# Do not indulge in any heavy physical activity in the day following the donation. For instance, avoid all kinds of exercises, swimming etc., which can be physically demanding.

# Take adequate rest immediately after the blood donation.

# Ensure that you intake the right amount of fluids after the donation. It is important to bear in mind that any intake should be as per the regimen followed by a diabetic. There should be no deviation from the type of food or fluid intake followed as part of modified diet.


General criteria that needs to be borne in mind when donating blood

Diabetics who are looking for answers to the question can diabetics donate blood need to bear in mind the general criteria that applies to all blood donors. With the exception of granulocyte collection, covered earlier, all other criteria apply equally for all blood donors. This includes the following :

· The blood donor should be between the ages of 17 and 76. Individuals who are below this age group require parental consent, while individuals above this age group require written consent from a medical practitioner.

· The minimum weight of the donor should be 110 pounds or more.

· The general health condition of the donor should be healthy. In other words the donor should be in a position to carry out regular physical activities. This includes individuals who are diagnosed with diabetes.

These are the general guidelines that govern blood donation. As explained earlier, barring the reasons for ‘donor deferral’, any individual who meets the criteria can donate blood. It is important to understand that the list of reasons for deferral are not exhaustive but touch upon the main reasons alone. There other criteria that also make individuals ineligible for blood donation – for instance a tattoo in the preceding year. To sum up, the answer to the question – can diabetics donate blood – is yes, but with a few conditions as explained above.


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