Can I Donate Plasma If I Have Psoriatic Arthritis?

Safety, Disqualifications, Delays, and Logistics

Many people with psoriatic arthritis (PsA) are advised not to donate plasma. But having PsA on its own doesn’t necessarily disqualify you from donating your plasma. According to the American Red Cross, most people with chronic illnesses can give blood if they are feeling well, their condition is managed, and they meet all eligibility guidelines.

Keep reading to learn about the safety of plasma donation if you have PsA, what could potentially disqualify you, when to delay donation, and what your options are for donating plasma. 

Plasma Donation

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Why It’s Safe

Plasma is the yellow-colored liquid that makes up 55% of our blood. The remainder is comprised of red blood cells, white blood cells, platelets, and other components. Plasma carries nutrients, hormones, and proteins to other parts of the body where they are needed.

Plasma donation is safe for most people who are in good health. The process for donating plasma is called plasmapheresis, and it doesn't take much longer than a regular blood donation.

The American Red Cross does allow people with autoimmune diseases, including psoriatic arthritis, to donate blood and blood plasma. Other blood donation centers might have different rules, so it is wise to reach out in advance to make sure they will allow donating plasma if you have PsA.

Side effects and adverse effects of plasmapheresis are the same for everyone who gives plasma, including people with PsA. Some people may feel light-headed or dizzy after the donation or have bruising near the blood draw site.

Systemic (whole body) reactions are rare and are seen in less than 1% of whole blood or plasma donations in studies from the United States and Europe. To date, there has been no evidence or research suggesting that having PsA, or another autoimmune disease, could mean adverse reactions or serious side effects with plasmapheresis.

The typical plasma donation yields around 625–800 milliliters of plasma, depending on the age and weight of a person. It takes the body up to 48 hours to replenish its plasma. It takes up to six weeks to replace the missing blood. 

No evidence or research to date suggests these periods for replenishing plasma or blood might affect your PsA symptoms or disease management or lead to flare-ups. 

Potential Disqualifications

There are factors that could disqualify a person with PsA from donating plasma. Some factors are temporary restrictions, while others lead to permanent disqualification. Factors preventing you from donating plasma include certain medications you may be on, the quality of your blood, and your health at the time of donation.

Medications

According to the American Red Cross, some medications used to treat PsA may disqualify you from donating your plasma.

Medications that prevent plasma donation in people with PsA include:

  • Arava (leflunomide): If you take this immunosuppressive drug to manage PsA, you will need to wait two years after you have stopped taking it to donate your plasma.
  • Aspirin: If you take aspirin to manage PsA pain, you will need to wait two days before donating plasma.
  • Rinvoq (upadacitinib): You will need to wait one month after stopping this JAK inhibitor drug before donating plasma.
  • Soriatane (acitretin): If you are using this therapy for managing psoriasis, you will need to wait three years before donating. About 30% of people with psoriasis develop PsA but rarely do people have PsA without psoriasis.
  • Tegison (etretinate): If you have ever taken this drug to treat severe psoriasis, you are ineligible to donate plasma. 

Your doctor can answer any questions about your PsA treatments and if you can give plasma while treating with specific therapies. 

Anemia

Anemia is a disorder in which blood doesn’t contain enough healthy red blood cells. People with autoimmune diseases, including psoriatic arthritis, are more vulnerable to developing conditions associated with anemia, including anemia of inflammation and iron-deficiency anemia. 

While blood iron will not be checked before your plasma donation, the American Red Cross checks hemoglobin levels. Hemoglobin is the iron-rich protein that carries oxygen through the bloodstream. If your hemoglobin levels are low, you will not be able to donate plasma until those levels have improved.

Minimum hemoglobin levels for blood and plasma donation are 12.5 grams per deciliter for females and 13.0 grams per deciliter for males. The maximum hemoglobin level for donation cannot be more than 20.0 grams per deciliter.

When to Delay Donation

Even if the medications you take for PsA don’t disqualify you from donating plasma, there might be other factors that could delay your ability to donate. Both infections and active PsA flares could delay your plans.

Infections

According to the American Red Cross, people with active infections should not donate because some infections might be transmitted through blood.

If you are taking an oral antibiotic to treat an infection, the American Red Cross recommends waiting until you finish the antibiotics to give blood or donate plasma. If you take an antibiotic injection, you should wait at least 10 days after the last injection.

Antibiotic use with plasma or blood donation is acceptable if taken to prevent an infection related to many different conditions, including after dental work. Anyone with a fever of 99.5 degrees should not donate.

Some of the medications you use to treat PsA might increase your risk for infection. Pay attention to potential signs of infection before deciding to donate plasma. Signs of infection include fever, chills, fatigue, body aches, sore throat, cough, and headache.

Flare-Ups

An active flare-up of your PsA means you are experiencing high inflammation levels. Anytime you are feeling unwell, it is not a good idea to donate plasma.

Other symptoms of a flare-up, including joint pain, swelling, and fatigue, won’t necessarily disqualify you, but it is possible that donating plasma could further stress your body and increase the length of a flare.

Additionally, some of the medications you take to get relief during a flare-up might temporarily prevent you from donating plasma.

For example, corticosteroid therapy for reducing inflammation and swelling can mask an underlying infection. It might make sense to wait a week or more after completing corticosteroid therapy to give plasma.

Before donating, it is a good idea to talk to the doctor who manages your PsA care. They will want to review your medical history and blood work to determine the safest way for you to donate your plasma.

Logistics

Plasma donation centers require donors to be 18 years of age or older and to weigh at least 110 pounds. At the plasma center, you will need to answer questions about your health history and have a quick assessment, which includes checking your pulse, blood pressure, and temperature.

Before any of this occurs, you need to decide where you will donate your plasma. There are two different ways to donate. One involves going to a plasma donation center, where you would be compensated for making a plasma donation. A second way is as a volunteer donor through an organization like the American Red Cross.

Many organizations that allow you to donate your plasma offer search tools for locating a blood plasma donation center, including:

Before deciding to donate your plasma, talk to the doctor who treats your PsA. They can give you information about safety concerns and locations at which to donate.

Summary

People with psoriatic arthritis may donate plasma if they meet all of the requirements. Disqualifying factors include taking certain medications, being anemic, having an infection, or having a flare-up. Often, these are only temporary disqualifications.

A Word From Verywell

Many people report feeling tired after giving plasma, but most don’t experience any severe or adverse reactions. To reduce the risk of side effects, remember to prepare ahead of time by watching your diet, drinking plenty of water, and following any advice from your doctor.

Try to get plenty of sleep the night before, dress comfortably, and be prepared with something to do, such as reading a book, since you will be spending two or more hours at the donation center.

Frequently Asked Questions

What should you eat before donating plasma?

Avoid drinking alcohol for at least 24 hours before giving plasma to reduce your risk of dehydration. Drink plenty of water before and after your donation. Start drinking water at least 12 hours before, and continue to stay hydrated for 12 hours after donation. You should also limit drinks that reduce iron absorption, including coffee, tea, and milk.

Eat a protein-filled and iron-rich diet a few hours before your donation, and don’t head out on an empty stomach. Examples of protein-rich foods are eggs, chicken, beef, cheese, and yogurt. Examples of iron-rich foods are broccoli and other leafy greens, beans, and lean meats like turkey, chicken, beef, and ham.

Avoid fatty foods and snacks, although healthy fats, like avocado, salmon, eggs, and nuts, are fine.

What medications disqualify you from donating plasma?

Some medicines might disqualify you from donating plasma—at least temporarily. According to the American Red Cross, medications that might prevent you from donating your plasma include antibiotics, antiplatelet medicines, blood thinners, human-derived growth hormones, and unlicensed vaccines.

Specific drugs that prevent donation include Accutane (isotretinoin), Avodart (dutasteride), bovine insulin, Jalyn (dutasteride and tamsulosin), and Proscar (finasteride), although these are not the only medicines that might disqualify plasma donation. Your doctor is always the best source of information when it comes to your PsA treatment plan.

How does donating plasma work? 

Plasma donation comes from whole blood. Plasma is the liquid part of your blood. It carries vital minerals, hormones, and nutrients throughout the body and maintains blood pressure in a healthy range. Plasma or its components are used to treat many conditions.

You will have to go to a special facility or clinic to make a blood plasma donation. Some places will even pay you to donate. A plasmapheresis appointment can take 1.5–2 hours to complete.

You will be told to lie back and a needle will be inserted into your arm. Blood is drawn through the attached line into a machine that separates the plasma from the other components. The cellular components of your blood, along with saline, are returned to your body through the line.

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