Blood is a constantly circulating fluid providing the body with nutrition, oxygen, and waste removal. Blood is mostly liquid, with numerous cells and proteins suspended in it, making blood "thicker" than pure water. The average person has about 5 liters (more than a gallon) of blood.
About Blood Donation
A blood donation occurs when a person voluntarily has blood drawn and used for transfusions and/or made into biopharmaceutical medications by a process called fractionation (separation of whole-blood components). Donation may be of whole blood (WB), or of specific components directly (the latter called apheresis). Blood banks often participate in the collection process as well as the procedures that follow it.
A liquid called plasma makes up about half of the content of blood. Plasma contains proteins that help blood to clot, transport substances through the blood, and perform other functions. Blood plasma also contains glucose and other dissolved nutrients.
About half of blood volume is composed of blood cells:
• Red blood cells, which carry oxygen to the tissues
• White blood cells, which fight infections
• Platelets, smaller cells that help blood to clot
Blood is conducted through blood vessels (arteries and veins). Blood is prevented from clotting in the blood vessels by their smoothness, and the finely tuned balance of clotting factors.
Hemorrhage (bleeding): Blood leaking out of blood vessels may be obvious, as from a wound penetrating the skin. Internal bleeding (such as into the intestines, or after a car accident) may not be immediately apparent.
Hematoma: A collection of blood inside the body tissues. Internal bleeding often causes a hematoma.
Leukemia: A form of blood cancer, in which white blood cells multiply abnormally and circulate through the blood. The abnormal white blood cells make getting sick from infections easier than normal.
Multiple myeloma: A form of blood cancer of plasma cells similar to leukemia. Anemia, kidney failure and high blood calcium levels are common in multiple myeloma.
Lymphoma: A form of blood cancer, in which white blood cells multiply abnormally inside lymph nodes and other tissues. The enlarging tissues, and disruption of blood's functions, can eventually cause organ failure.
Anemia: An abnormally low number of red blood cells in the blood. Fatigue and breathlessness can result, although anemia often causes no noticeable symptoms.
Hemolytic anemia: Anemia caused by rapid bursting of large numbers of red blood cells (hemolysis). An immune system malfunction is one cause.
Hemochromatosis: A disorder causing excessive levels of iron in the blood. The iron deposits in the liver, pancreas and other organs, causing liver problems and diabetes.
Sickle cell disease: A genetic condition in which red blood cells periodically lose their proper shape (appearing like sickles, rather than discs). The deformed blood cells deposit in tissues, causing pain and organ damage.
Bacteremia: Bacterial infection of the blood. Blood infections are serious, and often require hospitalization and continuous antibiotic infusion into the veins.
Malaria: Infection of red blood cells by Plasmodium, a parasite transmitted by mosquitos. Malaria causes episodic fevers, chills, and potentially organ damage.
Thrombocytopenia: Abnormally low numbers of platelets in the blood. Severe thrombocytopenia may lead to bleeding.
Leukopenia: Abnormally low numbers of white blood cells in the blood. Leukopenia can result in difficulty fighting infections.
Disseminated intravascular coagulation (DIC): An uncontrolled process of simultaneous bleeding and clotting in very small blood vessels. DIC usually results from severe infections or cancer.
Hemophilia: An inherited (genetic) deficiency of certain blood clotting proteins. Frequent or uncontrolled bleeding can result from hemophilia.
Hypercoaguable state: Numerous conditions can result in the blood being prone to clotting. A heart attack, stroke, or blood clots in the legs or lungs can result.
Polycythemia: Abnormally high numbers of red blood cells in the blood. Polycythemia can result from low blood oxygen levels, or may occur as a cancer-like condition.
Deep venous thrombosis (DVT): A blood clot in a deep vein, usually in the leg. DVTs are dangerous because they may become dislodged and travel to the lungs, causing a pulmonary embolism (PE).
Myocardial infarction (MI): Commonly called a heart attack, a myocardial infarction occurs when a sudden blood clot develops in one of the coronary arteries, which supply blood to the heart.
Today in the developed world, most blood donors are unpaid volunteers who donate blood for a community supply. In some countries, established supplies are limited and donors usually give blood when family or friends need a transfusion (directed donation). Many donors donate as an act of charity, but in countries that allow paid donation some donors are paid, and in some cases there are incentives other than money such as paid time off from work. Donors can also have blood drawn for their own future use (autologous donation). Donating is relatively safe, but some donors have bruising where the needle is inserted or may feel faint.
Potential donors are evaluated for anything that might make their blood unsafe to use. The screening includes testing for diseases that can be transmitted by a blood transfusion, including HIV and viral hepatitis. The donor must also answer questions about medical history and take a short physical examination to make sure the donation is not hazardous to his or her health. How often a donor can donate varies from days to months based on what component they donate and the laws of the country where the donation takes place. For example, in the United States, donors must wait eight weeks (56 days) between whole blood donations but only seven days between plateletpheresis donations and twice per seven-day period in plasmapheresis.
The amount of blood drawn and the methods vary. The collection can be done manually or with automated equipment that takes only specific components of the blood. Most of the components of blood used for transfusions have a short shelf life, and maintaining a constant supply is a persistent problem. This has led to some increased interest in autotransfusion, whereby a patient's blood is salvaged during surgery for continuous reinfusion—or alternatively, is "self-donated" prior to when it will be needed. (Generally, the notion of "donation" does not refer to giving to one's self, though in this context it has become somewhat acceptably idiomatic.)
Who can give blood
Most people can give blood. You can give blood if you:
are fit and healthy
weigh between 7 stone 12 lbs and 25 stone, or 50kg and 160kg
are aged between 17 and 66 (or 70 if you have given blood before)
are over 70 and have given blood in the last two years
How often can I give blood?
Men can give blood every 12 weeks and women can give blood every 16 weeks. Find out more about what happens on the day of your donation.
Check you are able to give blood
You can check some of the most common eligibility questions we receive from blood donors.