Donating plasma twice weekly is noble, safe
DEAR DR. GOTT: I am a 58-year-old male who donates plasma twice a week. I’ve been doing this for four or five years. I get paid $50 a week, which helps in today’s times. Should I be worried about long-term effects? For example, will my vein at some point possibly collapse, since I use my left arm all the time? Should I worry about scar-tissue buildup or anything else?
DEAR READER: There are three types of cells in our blood – red cells, white cells and platelets. Red blood cells are most prominent, giving blood its characteristic red color. Their purpose is to carry oxygen from the lungs throughout the body. White blood cells help fight infection. Platelets aid clotting. Plasma, on the other hand, is a watery, yellowish fluid in which blood cells are suspended. It makes up about 55 percent of our total blood volume.
Plasma is prepared by spinning a tube of fresh blood containing an anticoagulant in a centrifuge until the blood cells drop to the bottom of the tube. The plasma is then drawn off during donation, and some of the red blood cells collected are recycled back into the body. Some people, such as you, donate plasma twice weekly. Providing you are healthy, your plasma should be restored within 48 hours following donation, with a minimum of 48 hours between donations. People who donate plasma for money assist research companies and drug manufacturers, but your plasma will not be given directly to someone who is ill. That fact should not prevent anyone from making this noble commitment.
Other than the “common” side effects of lightheadedness, nausea and fatigue associated with donation, some of the more serious but quite uncommon considerations include abdominal pain, difficulty breathing, seizures and an allergic reaction around the puncture site. Beyond that, I don’t know of any long-term medical consequences. Should you experience any unusual symptoms, speak with your primary-care physician or the personnel at the center where you donate. They may suggest you temporarily decrease your pattern. Most centers allow a maximum of two donations per week and deny more. Plasma donation is more involved than whole blood in terms of the time involved, taking up to more than two hours each time. Perhaps that is why it pays as well as it does.
Plasma is used for a variety of medical purposes, such as with assisting burn victims, hemophiliacs, those with primary immunodeficiency, alpha-1 antitrypsin deficiency, transplant recipients, genetic lung disorders, liver conditions, and some neurological and autoimmune disorders.
While you may receive monetary reciprocation, I admire your decision to further research and give of yourself. Just make sure that you are conservative with your donation schedule and consider your own health and well-being above all else.
To provide related information, I am sending you a copy of my Health Report “Blood: Donations and Disorders.” Other readers who would like a copy can print an order form off my website at www.AskDrGottMD.com.