Can I donate blood?

Recently a patient told me she was disqualified from donating blood due to Rheumatoid Arthritis. I had never heard such a thing and got to work emailing the Red Cross and searching the website. Lots of good information on eligibility requirements can be found HERE. As long as a patient with a chronic illness is not on any prohibited medications and his/her disease is under good control, there is no contraindication to blood donation. There is quite a bit of information on the website regarding medical conditions, medications and travel. If you have any questions, I encourage you to spend some time on the site. I also received an email from a Red Cross Medical Officer, who informed me that a diagnosis of RA or SLE on its own would not prohibit someone from donating blood. So go ahead and give blood if you’d like. The photo above? That’s the lobby of my hospital last week during a blood drive. Sometimes you need a visual reminder that you wanted to get a blog post up!


11 responses to “Can I donate blood?

  1. Great information. Thank you. It doesn’t look like any DMARDs are on the list of meds that disqualify people from donating blood through the Red Cross.

  2. Some years ago when I was in high school, I was told by Canadian Blood Services that because I was on methotrexate, I’d never be able to give blood. I wonder if that has since changed here.

    • At least on the red cross website, I did not see MTX on that list. Let us know if you encounter anything otherwise!

      • I’ve called a couple places, and it looks like the policy varies from one place to another. The bloodbank closest to me permanently defers everyone with RA. However, I could go to Seattle and donate without a problem (they checked all my meds).

  3. Thanks for the info. I’d hate to think that my RA could keep me from donating blood if I wanted to do it.

    I have a question for you (and you can answer or not, of course): What sort of training and how in-depth is the training that a rheumatologist receives when she chooses that specialty? I ask because after reading many RA patient blogs, the info they get from their rheumatologists is always so variable. For an an example, one rheumatologist feels that symptomatic swelling around the joint isn’t necessary for a diagnosis of RA, while another won’t diagnose RA if there isn’t swelling along with pain and stiffness. My own rheumatologist, who I like very much, has identified the bump on the back of my hand one time as a rheumatoid nodule, and during another appointment, brushed it off as a ganglion cyst.

    RA is an incredibly variable disease that varies between individuals — I understand this. But I have to feel for people who must wait months and even years for a diagnosis because their particular case of it won’t behave according to the textbooks.

    Thanks for listening and for the good work you do. I hope you’ll answer my question; I’m very curious.

    • That’s a really hard question to answer without having all the info about a patient and seeing him/her in person. But about the training, first (after 4 years of med school) we have to do 3 years of an internal medicine residency. We then do 2 or more years of a rheumatology fellowship at a university. 2 years is what many people do but those who want more research experience or who intend to primarily practice at a university might do another year or more of research fellowship. The 2 clinical years involve inpatient consultations, outpatient clinics, giving and attending presentations as well as research.

      Every patient is slightly different in how he/she experiences pain or what the joints look like. Synovitis is swelling of the joint lining but there can be swelling along the tendons or just soft tissue swelling of the hands. As you know, the treatments for RA can have significant side effects, so we like to be as sure of the diagnosis as possible. I often say that rheumatologists have to really like gray because there is rarely anthing black or white in what we do!

  4. Pingback: Blood Donation « ∞ itis

  5. I am an RA patient who is on Orencia, Arava, and Ibuprofen as needed. Can I donate blood? Thank you!

    • That seems to be controversial. Since I posted the original entry, I have heard from several people who are on similar meds and say they’ve been told no. The best bet is to call your local red cross.

  6. I am a RA patient. I am 30 yrs old now, but was diagnosed w JRA at the age of 4. Unfortunately, my disease has never gone into remission, but I have been able to control it w/ exercise & a healthy life style so far. I take an occassional Advil or Goodys powder, but other than that I am not on any other OTC or Rx medications. Like the patient mentioned above, I too have been told that I cannot donate blood due to my diagnosis. I never questioned it, my fault I guess, but I figured if they were turning down blood they must have a good, medically sound reason. It makes me really angry to find out otherwise, esp since I also have a rare blood type.

  7. Lisa Wheelock

    It’s not the disease itself that disqualifies you it is the treatment of using DMARDS to control RA

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