Donating Blood When You Have Arthritis

Your disease doesn't disqualify you, but some circumstances might

If you have rheumatoid arthritis (RA) or psoriatic arthritis (PsA), you may have been told that you should not donate blood. But having a history of an autoimmune disease does not automatically disqualify you as a donor. While some people with arthritis may be ineligible to make a blood donation due to an active flare or the use of certain medications, for the most part, you should be able to give blood as long as you are feeling well and are otherwise healthy.

Blood Donation and Arthritis

Verywell / Michela Buttignol

Why It Is Safe to Donate

As long as you are in good health aside from having arthritis and do not meet any donor exemptions (see below), donating blood is perfectly safe both for you and those who receive your blood.

In the past, people with autoimmune types of arthritis and other autoimmune diseases were banned from donating blood. This was due to concerns that circulating autoantibodies (antibodies that mistakenly destroy healthy cells) in people with autoimmune diseases could transfer from donor to recipient. However, a large population-based study of blood donors confirms this is not the case.

The study, published in the journal Annals of Rheumatic Diseases, used data from 938,942 blood donors in a Danish–Swedish database (SCANDAT2) and found no evidence that rheumatoid arthritis can be transmitted through blood transfusion.

Side effects and risks of blood donation are the same for people with arthritis as for other donors: You may feel lightheaded or dizzy after donating, and you may develop a bruise near the site of the blood draw.

A typical donation is equivalent to 1 pint of blood. Your body replenishes the lost fluid within 24 hours of a donation and it takes another four to six weeks for red blood cells to regenerate. This has no effect on your arthritis symptoms or disease management.

When to Delay or Avoid Donating Blood

Blood donations are always in need, so having arthritis should not be something that gets in the way of giving. Know, however, that there are circumstances in which you can be denied as a blood donor either temporarily or permanently.

Some of these relate to arthritis specifically, such as having an active flare of your condition or taking certain arthritis medications. Others are disqualifying factors that may apply to any individual, such as if you have heart disease or a history of drug use.

Active Arthritis Flare-Up

Blood donation is not recommended if you have a temperature above 99.5 degrees F or are otherwise ill. Some people experience a fever during an arthritis flare-up and, therefore, should avoid giving blood until their temperature is back to normal.

The joint pain, swelling, and other symptoms that tend to come with a flare aren't an issue when it comes to giving blood (aside from, perhaps, if you feel too uncomfortable to do so). However, the medications you take may make you ineligible to donate.

Use of Certain Medications for Arthritis

Certain medications used in the treatment of RA and PsA may make you ineligible to donate blood for a period of time.

Medications that may disqualify you from giving blood include: 

  • Arava (leflunomide): You should wait two years after taking this immunosuppressive drug before donating blood.
  • Aspirin: There is no waiting period for donating whole blood when taking aspirin, but you must wait two full days before donating platelets by apheresis (a way to donate specific components of blood).
  • Feldene (piroxicam): There is no waiting period for donating whole blood, but you must wait two days before donating platelets by apheresis.
  • Rinvoq (upadacitinib): You should wait one month after taking this biologic disease-modifying antirheumatic drug (DMARD).
  • Soriatane (acitretin): You should wait three years after taking this vitamin A derivative that treats psoriasis.
  • Tegison (etretinate): If you have ever taken this second-generation retinoid that is used to treat severe psoriasis, you are ineligible to donate blood.

Can I Donate Blood If I Take Methotrexate?

Taking Trexall (methotrexate), an antimetabolite used in the treatment of rheumatoid arthritis and psoriatic arthritis, does not disqualify you from donating blood. The American Red Cross does not list methotrexate on its list of problematic medications.

Anemia

Anemia is a condition in which your body does not produce enough healthy red blood cells. People with arthritis and other autoimmune diseases are more prone to anemia of chronic disease and iron-deficiency anemia.

Prior to blood donation, a finger-stick blood test will be performed to check your levels of hemoglobin, an iron-rich protein that is responsible for carrying oxygen through the bloodstream. Iron helps your body make new red blood cells to replace those lost through blood donations.

If your hemoglobin levels are too low, it may be dangerous for you to donate blood at this time. Minimum hemoglobin levels for safe blood donation are:

  • Female: 12.5 grams per deciliter
  • Male: 13 grams per deciliter

Note that taking certain DMARDs prescribed to treat anemia can also result in your blood donation needing to be delayed.

Other Disqualifying Factors

The requirements for blood donation can vary by individual blood banks.

In most states, donors must be age 17 or older, although 16-year-olds may be able to donate with a signed parental consent form. Donors must also weigh at least 110 pounds and be in good health.

The American Red Cross does not allow blood donations from people who meet the following criteria, whether they also have arthritis or not:

  • Infected with human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) or are at risk of getting HIV (such as having had sexual contact with an HIV-positive person or having multiple sex partners)
  • A previous or current history of substance use disorder (either oral or intravenous)
  • Serious chronic illness, such as diseases of the heart or lung, although those with well-controlled asthma can still donate blood
  • History of hepatitis B or hepatitis C
  • A previous or current history of cancer (depending on the type of cancer and success of treatment)

In April 2020, the Department of Health and Human Services reversed a previous permanent ban on blood donation from men who have sex with men (MSM). The new guidelines recommend a three-month deferment from the last sexual contact. 

A Word From Verywell

Blood donation is important for public health and helps to ensure the blood supply is readily available for people who need blood due to injury, illness, or surgery. Despite current guidelines suggesting it is safe for people with psoriatic arthritis or rheumatoid arthritis to donate blood, some blood banks still have a policy against accepting donations from people with any autoimmune disease.

It is always a good idea to call ahead to confirm your eligibility. If you are unable to donate for any reason but still wish to contribute to the cause, consider organizing a blood drive or volunteering at a blood bank.

To find an American Red Cross blood drive near you, visit the organization's website and use their searchable database.

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11 Sources
Verywell Health uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
  1. Just SA, Rostgaard K, Titlestad K, et al. Transmission of rheumatoid arthritis through blood transfusion: a retrospective cohort study. Ann Rheum Dis. 2018;77(10):1536-1537. doi:10.1136/annrheumdis-2017-212844

  2. American Red Cross. Frequently asked questions.

  3. Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center. Medical conditions affecting donation.

  4. American Red Cross. Frequently asked questions: General health considerations.

  5. Mayo Clinic. Rheumatoid arthritis.

  6. American Red Cross. Frequently asked questions: Medications and vaccinations.

  7. The National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases. Anemia of inflammation or chronic disease.

  8. Mayo Clinic. Blood donation.

  9. American Red Cross. Frequently asked questions about iron and blood donation.

  10. American Red Cross. Eligibility requirements.

  11. U.S. Department of Health & Human Services. Revised recommendations for reducing the risk of human immunodeficiency virus transmission by blood and blood products.