Being the people person that I am, I am always looking for a way to help others. However, when my friends recently went off to donate blood for a volunteer hour, I second-guessed my ability to help others. I know that I can volunteer in different ways, but it got me thinking: I’ve just always assumed that because I have diabetes I am not able to donate blood, organs or plasma, but is there any truth to this way of thinking?
I asked a Certified Diabetes Educator (CED, http://www.smmmc.org/clinicalservices/diabetes/index.shtml) at my doctor’s office recently, and she told me that it depends on the situation. Yes, diabetics can donate blood. For organs, there are specific and individual guidelines. And yes, diabetics can donate plasma.
The main reason behind not being able to donate blood is due to the scare of low blood sugar. There is nothing “wrong” with diabetic blood that renders it useless, but there are other factors that go into the decisions made by blood donation organizations. For those non-diabetic readers: the nurses always give you cookies and juice after you donate blood. Do you know why? It is to keep your blood sugar stable after such a large amount of blood loss. The organizations have enough issues dealing with non-diabetics who may faint or feel woozy after giving blood, so having a diabetic there with a low blood sugar is a liability. So, if you want to donate blood, there are certain criteria that you may have to meet (check with the blood bank to which you are planning to donate). (http://www.everydayhealth.com/diabetes/type2/managing/specialist/getaneh/can-I-give-blood.aspx).
However, it is a different story for organs. Diabetics cannot donate organs while living. One of the reasons is the fact that as diabetics live longer, the disease in one way or another affects their organs. For example, kidney and heart disease are common among diabetics, so donating an organ that has already been put through stress is basically a waste of an organ donation. But, there is such a great need for organs and so many specific cases, that donating organs after death is usually not a problem for diabetics.