Sunday, October 16, 2016

Risks and Side Effects of Donating Plasma

Q: I was worried about the long-term side effects of donating plasma and searched the web, but haven't come across any definitive information on the long-term effects on plasma donations over a long term period. I talked to someone that donated more plasma and led more road races than he cares to admit in the last two years, and he attests that plasma donation does not have that much of a negative effect health-wise.

However, there are possible harmful side effects to be aware of before accepting the needle. 

Plasma Donation Regulations

A: I've witnessed tens of thousands of plasma donations, and for most people, it's a safe process without high risks. In the past, donors risked developing a form of hepatitis in facilities that reused unsanitized equipment. Today, the donation of plasma is widespread and is considered an act of generosity.

 Biolife Plasma Services is heavily regulated by the United States Food and Drug Administration (FDA), and must follow strict safety regulations to ensure plasma quality and safety on the part of both donor and patients who received life-saving plasma products. Collecting plasma machines are fairly sophisticated in order to ensure that RBCs are not damaged.

I was a phlebotomist at a plasma donation center when I was in college. A phlebotomist at a plasma donation center is the person holding the needle in my hand and accompanying you throughout your donation.

Risks of Plasma Donation

There are some possible side effects that occur after each plasma donation, typical for everyone. You'll probably notice that every time you donate, you feel very thirsty. The dangers of being dehydrated when donating body fluids (including plasma, platelets, and giving blood) include vein damage over time, causing them to harden with scarring.

To prevent this, drink water, milk or juice the day before donating, and once you are done, even if you do not feel thirsty. Scarring is usually due to not eating enough  before donation, or being dehydrated. Dehydration is also a leading cause of many other harmful effects that are associated with plasma donation, such as dizziness and weakness.

There's really not much side effects donating blood plasma for most people, especially with careful safety precautions before you go and after you're through.

There is very little risk to plasma donating.

Frequent donations decrease plasma levels of serum immunoglobulins, possibly increasing infection risk by lowering your immune system. Donating blood plasma isn't bad for you if you do it within four hours of eating a good meal. But if you want to help someone, you first need to think if it's good for your health background and check thoroughly if you are healthy enough to avoid harmful effects of donating.

I'm not saying that everyone should donate plasma for extra money. The entire donation process takes about 45 min to 1 h.

Like other destructive activities done with needles (drugs, steroids, etc.), donating plasma punctures your blood vessels, which is bad for your vein health.

Plasma Donation Process

The process of taking the plasma from the body is called plasmapheresis. As far as people do not understand the whole donation process, Its not complicated: Plasma is composed of a 70% H2O and salt water. Plasma donation centers also use a 17 or 16 gage needle to ensure that the cells are not damaged during return. Donating plasma is usually done by donating blood, while plasma are separated from the cells.

Short Term Vs. Long Term Effects

If you are a regular plasma donor, you'll feel some short term side effects after donating - like dehydration, tired feeling, chest pain, weak/rapid pulse, and a dizzyness or a sore arm. But in the short term, there's little possible risk of donating. There are more long term disadvantages to donating than short term disadvantages.

Repeat or regular plasma donors might develop serious long-term effects that are bad for their health, like after donating regularly for months or years.

Long term plasma donation lowers immunoglobin levels, which affects the immune system and puts donors at risk for serious health complications like pneumonia. You start to feel physically run down and unhealthy after donating for extended periods of time.

Over time possible plasma donation complications include lowering serotonin and endorphin levels in the blood, making depression, mental disorders, and increased anxiety or panic attacks worse. Those at risk for, or previously diagnosed with depression or social anxiety are taking unhealthy risks by plasma donating long term. Regular plasma donations may have a harmful effect of lowering mental health state and weakening the immune system over time.

Are there Risks or Disadvantages for plasma recipients?

Back in 2001, the the FDA issued a warning, which stated that plasma recipients faced an increased risk of contracting pulmonary syndrome or Transfusion Related Acute Lung Injury (TRALI). This occurred because in isolated cases of plasma donation, plasma is separated and detached from the blood and then returns the blood to the blood donor system.

Plasma is made up mostly of water and protein, so that the process of donating it may deprive you of healthy nutrients. If you donate too much, the possible side effects of plasma donating include a small scar on the hand.

But there is another reason to heed this advise, not just the day before, but after the donation process is over: donating blood plasma dehydrates the body to unhealthy levels.

The cons of plasma donating are discomfort in some cases even a little painful, but it should stop being so very quickly. Usually the bad feelings will pass after a few minutes, and then you can go about your business. Mind you, I only had one truly painful/harmful experience of 7 years in donating blood and three years of plasma donating. It was cold and I started getting symptoms about 8 hours after donating.

What is a plasma donation?

Plasma is the yellow liquid and consists of mostly water and some proteins that are essential for the proper functioning of the body. To summarize, although there is a potential risk/danger to the donor plasma and plasma recipients, there are some measures that have been taken by the medical staff and the hospital. Automated plasmapheresis machines remove whole blood, it mixes with the anticoagulant, separates the plasma into the container, and then flows into the red blood cells back into the body.

There are disadvantages to plasma donating. Loss of plasma in your system can make you feel sick after donating, leaving you more susceptible to the flu and other common colds.

Hold off on the yard work

Physical activity or exercise immediately after donating can also cause many of the harmful symptoms, especially if you are a new donor. Give your body some time to rest after donating before going for a daily jog, mowing the lawn, or aerobics class. I would not recommend going for a 10 mile run immediately after the donation, but if you drink a bottle of water and grab a small snack, you should be fine.
If one's blood system is unhealthy, or for some reason does not produce enough plasma, then they need transfusion from plasma donors. If you are in good health, donating blood does not cause any permanent side effects. According to experts, a person can donate plasma every 48 hours, but can't donate more than twice a week.

There are certain harmful effects that you could possibly experience during your donation. Plasma donations (like platelet donations) have been around for many years and new technologies monitor cells in a centrifuge.

I've heard people say they donate plasma leaves them exhausted and too tired to do anything after that. In addition, since the donation schedule is flexible, you can make it work around your schedule exercise. There are two cycles in the whole process.

The electrolytes in sports drinks like Gatorade actually help replenish your system faster, so it is recommended to drink something like that after the donation. Plasma then goes to the bottle and your blood stays in the bowl. Processes of plasma and blood plasma donations are similar but not the same. Other organizations say it is bad for your health to donate plasma more than 12 times a year.

I am sure that if you dig enough you can find a horror story or two, but behind it's the truth about blood plasma donation as well.

Drink plenty of water

You are advised to drink plenty of water the day before you donate. It is also important to keep drinking water after you finish donating. When properly hydrated, you should experience minimal pain, and I hope that any pain you do experience does not stop you from donating again.

As long as you eat a good meal, stay healthy, and  follow maintenance guidelines that go along with plasma donating will be fine. If you decide to donate plasma, you should be aware of the risks and take precautions so as to leave no chances.

If you ever experience a tired feeling after plasma donating you are probably under stress, not sleeping or eating poorly and not drinking enough fluids.

 I asked Pat Ruether, a local nutritionist about it. If your protein levels are low, plasma donating can have harmful effects. Low protein means you will not be able to donate (they check the protein and iron levels during check-in at Biolife). Make sure you drink plenty of water leading up to donation (especially the day before) and add protein to your diet as possible.

How Often Can I Donate?

It is all right to donate plasma twice a week, but if you donate too much or too often, you may face dangerous problems with low blood protein hemoglobin in the blood and in the urine.

You won't die from donating your plasma. However, plasma is used to make a number of critical care drugs that people will die without.

Most side effects can all be avoided if you drink lots of water and eat a meal before going to the hospital to donate plasma. Another downside is that plasma donating anti-coagulant can give metallicy strange taste in the mouth, or in some cases, numb lips.

A drawback is that plasma donating is a pain most of the time, it just takes a little longer. For most people, donating blood plasma has few bad feeling side effects, and whatever there is is usually quite mild.

One can donate plasma in almost every hospital in the U.S., as it is considered a routine procedure with few consequences. The only reason you would ever feel sick or nauseated after getting plasma drawn will be because you will have a reaction.

Plasma regenerates quickly into your system, and most of the facilities (Biolife included) recover their red blood cell donation for you when the cycle is completed. Drinking sugary drinks can dehydrate and fatty foods can make your plasma more difficult to draw. Many students earn their pocket money from plasma donation, as it paid $ 15-20 each time you go to the hospital to donate.

How to Avoid Risks When Donating Plasma

Donating your plasma is a risky business, and hard on the body. To avoid passing out, blood loss, lumbago, nerve damage, and other common side effects, follow these 3 guidelines to minimize your risk:

1.) Eat protein packed foods, like peanut butter, spinach, egg yolks, bacon, or red fish

2.) Eat something high in slow-metabolizing sugar: plasma donation drains the body's sugars, but a sugar rush and crash won't help either. Eat high-energy, slow metabolizing meals to avoid passing out, like whole-grain cereal, brown rice, high-fiber bars, and fruits like apples.

3.) NEVER smoke right before plasma donation. Smoking (both cigarettes and "medical" marijuana) is a definite no-no! It raises your blood pressure, making you disqualified from donation, and also thins your blood, resulting in more risk of blood loss.

Is Donating Plasma Safe?

I've heard it all since I started donating two years ago, but the bottom line is: plasma donation is a safe, effective way to earn money and save lives in the process.

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