Diabetes and Blood Donation

Just because you have diabetes doesn't mean you can't help your community by being a blood donor.

When persons with diabetes maintain good control over their diabetes, and can meet any other requirements for blood donation, they are eligible to donate blood – with one exception: If, at any time, the person with diabetes has ever received bovine-derived insulin, they are not eligible to donate.

Animal-Based Insulin

Bovine-derived insulin (from a cow) and porcine-derived insulin (from a pig) were the first types of insulin administered to humans. It was not until the 1980s that human insulin and human analog insulin became the standard for treatment of diabetes. By 1998 Americans could no longer purchase domestically manufactured bovine insulin, and in 2006 domestic manufacturers ceased producing porcine insulin. Both types of insulin are still in use in other countries, but are illegal for Americans to import unless specific need can be proved.

The concern about use of animal-based insulin is the fear of transmission of animal genetic anomalies to humans. BSE (bovine spongiform encephalopathy or "mad cow disease") is a chronic neurological disorder of cows with an incubation period of from several months to several years. It is believed to be closely related to a similar disease called vCJD (new variant Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease) in humans. Because these are neurologically devastating diseases with no known cures, bovine-based products are heavily regulated.

Standard Requirements for Blood Donors

Aside from the issue of bovine-based insulin, persons with diabetes are subject to the same requirements as any other blood donors. They must be 17 years of age or older (16 years old with parental consent in some states), at least 110 pounds, in good health, not have any clotting disorders or be taking a blood thinning agent, have a blood pressure of between 80/50 and 180/110 at time of donation and not have any known blood disorders, such as cancers of the blood, hemochromatosis or active sickle cell anemia.

There are waiting periods for certain donations. Donors must wait six months after treatment for angina, heart attack, having bypass surgery or angioplasty or a heart valve disorder. Twelve months is the waiting period if the donor has been exposed to hepatitis, has had any kind of a transplant (except the transplant of dura matter as brain covering, which rules out donation), has gotten a tattoo at an unlicensed facility, has been exposed to malaria through travel to any malaria-infested country, has been treated for syphilis or gonorrhea, or has received a blood transfusion.

Those who have ever used IV drugs, those with HIV or who have acted in such a way as to be at risk for contracting AIDS, those who have lived with or had close contact with someone with active tuberculosis and those who have ever been treated with bovine-based insulin cannot donate.

Anyone with diabetes who meets the above requirements should feel free to donate, and should feel good, knowing they did something to benefit their community.

Sources: Diabetes UK , FDA and American Red Cross

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