Risks and Side Effects of Donating Plasma

Plasma is a yellowish liquid that contains water and some essential nutrients that people may need. Like donating blood, this can be done by people every few days or so but it would highly depend on where they are currently located. In the United States, people can donate plasma twice in every 7 days but in most countries, plasma donations should be done about 12 times every year or roughly, once a month.

A person who is fond of donating plasma can be helping a lot of individuals who are in need of healthy blood in order to help them live. Yet, the person should also be wary of his own health because there are still some risks and side effects that may be experienced because of donating plasma.Of course, it is important to note that as long as a person would donate at a trusted organization, the number of risks decrease in number. Most people go through plasma donations with ease. The process is usually safe without grave risks.


Risks and Side Effects of Donating Plasma

Bruising after donating plasma

If in the past, donating plasma was said to be a death sentence because of the possibility of spreading hepatitis because some facilities reused the equipment for all donors.

Modern facilities now do not do such thing so you can be assured that the needle that will be placed on you to transfer blood is yours and yours alone. Just remember that there are some rules that need to be followed to ensure that the quality of the plasma will be high and can really save lives.

Here are some of the side effects that may be acquired through plasma donations:

  • A person who has gone through the donation will feel thirsty. This is normal but can be prevented by drinking enough fluids. It can only be a high risk if a person gets seriously dehydrated because of not drinking enough fluids beforehand
  • Weakness is also one of the possible side effects of undergoing plasma donations but this may also be connected to dehydration.
  • Dizziness is common among people who go through plasma donations but with a little bit of rest and drinking fluids, it will pass.

The risk can be higher for plasma donating if people would donate frequently. This is because the serum immonuglobins are removed from the body. This decreases the health of the immune system and might make people more prone to various diseases.

A person who is willing to donate plasma should do it within 4 hours of having a good meal to lessen the possible side effects. At the same time, the person should be of good health. If the person has a medical condition, he may not be allowed to donate. For example, those who have weak veins or may have some issues with their veins will not be allowed to give plasma donations as the blood vessels will be affected during the donation process.


Long Term Side Effects of  Plasma Donation

It is already common for a person who has undergone plasma donation to feel some signs of weakness, dizziness and even experiencing a sore arm where the needle was placed to extract the blood but as long as the person will not be donating regularly, there will be no long term effects. If a person does donate too often, here are some of the possible effects that will be experienced:

  1. Lowering Serotonin and Endorphin Levels of the Blood – This can make certain mental conditions more likely such as depression, other disorders and social anxiety.
  2. Physical Weakness – Unlike after donating short term wherein a person can recover immediately, donating plasma often can result to overall physical weakness which does not seem to go away.
  3. Small Scar – If a scar is starting to show through a person’s hand, this is a sign that plasma is being donated too much.


Bruising And Nerve Irritation

Bruising after donating plasma 1Donors normally complain of some form of discomfort or bruising at the point of needle insertion after a plasma donation. But the proportion of these donors is not too much; Asian Journal of Transfusion Science says this happens with only about 2% of the total donors. Bruising is normally mild and does not really pose any kind of risk to your health other than a slight discomfort or swelling, at the most. Even the treatments to this are easily available home-made remedies such as applying ice over the affected area during the first 12 to 24 hours and then warm compresses till the bruise or the discomfort goes away.

Nerve irritation due to needle insertion at the time of plasma donation is a very rare occurrence. In the unlikely event this does happen, the donor will feel an intense pain at the point of insertion. And this pain may pass down from your arm right down to the hand. And if this happens, the needle should be removed immediately; normally the pain goes away this way. The donation will also be deferred under such circumstances and the donor will only be left with residual discomforts that’ll go away in no time.



Lightheadedness after donating plasmaPlasma donation, or any other blood donation for that matter, may sometimes cause an involuntary reflex which is known as the vasovagal response; this in turn leads to a fall in blood pressure. This reaction is normally triggered by the sight of blood, or needle, or the needle-insertion pain, or simply out of donation related anxiety.

Initial symptoms are sweating, weakness, nausea or vomiting, dizziness, blurry/tunnel vision, etc. These symptoms may rapidly lead to fainting. However, there is a quick remedy to this problem; simply recline the donation chair and apply a cool compress (like a pack of ice) on the forehead. This way, your feet gets raised and is known to help. Also, the donation is withheld.

The Asian Journal of Transfusion Science suggests that vasovagal reactions occurs in only about 1% of the total plasma donating population. Vasovagal reaction kicks in mostly at the time of collection but there are also those rare instances where it kicks in when you try to get up after the donation. Here you could feel dizzy and potentially slump to the ground, hurting yourself in the process. Again, this rarely happens and in these rare moments an intravenous fluid might be needed to bring the blood pressure up. Just to scare you, even a seizure with a lapse of consciousness might occur; again, chances of this happening is extremely low.


Citrate Reaction

Plasma is donated through Plasmapheresis; an automated process where plasma is separated from other cellular components of the blood and these components (leaving plasma) is transfused back to the donor. All this happens on a real-time. During this process, a chemical known as Citrate is added to the donor’s blood as it enters the Plasmapheresis machine to prevent clotting.

Most of this added citrate stays with the donated plasma, but a little amount of citrate might just find its way to the donor’s bloodstream when the blood is being returned. Once inside your system, the citrate temporarily binds all the calcium molecules present in the body. The good part is that because the calcium bound is in small proportion and the metabolism rate of the citrate is very high; so, there are no citrate-related side effects. But there are those unlucky 1% who does go through a citrate reaction. The reactions are very mild in nature accompanied by tingling, vibration-like, sensation in the donor’s hands or feet. There could also be cramps in these areas along with a lethargic feeling. In extreme cases; citrate reaction includes nausea and vomiting, muscle spasms, numbness in the facial region, confusion and shaking chills.

If the citrate reaction is mild, the entire process is put on hold briefly and the donor is given oral calcium tablets. The amount of citrate being injected into the process is also lowered, and these two steps are just about enough to bring down the side effects. But the donation is immediately stalled if the citrate reaction turns out to be severe. In this case even an emergency medical intervention may be required (very rarely though).


Other Possible Risks

This might sound absurd but it can so happen that the needle is inserted into an artery of the donor instead of his/her vein. And since there is high pressure in the arteries, it could cause bleeding in the region around the arterial puncture. In such a case, the needle has to be removed immediately and a firm pressure needs to be applied on the puncture site for about 10 minutes. And if all this does not help; hospital is where you should go, right away.

Other – very distant possibilities – that could arise out of plasma donations are:

  • Blood clot formation in the vein
  • Infection at the needle puncture point
  • Irritation due to rashes out of anxiety
  • Loss of blood in case the donation process is put on hold at the time blood cells are being transfused back to the donor.


Avoiding Risks While Donating Plasma

To avoid risks while donating plasma, the following things can be done:

  • It is not advisable to smoke before the plasma donation. This means that both cigarettes and medical marijuana are not allowed in facilities. Those who smoke before making donations will not be allowed anymore.
  • Eating food products that contain slow metabolizing sugar is recommended before making any plasma donation. Fruits like apples can do the trick.
  • Eat food products that are packed with protein.

By doing the following things, any person who decides to donate plasma will go through the process risk free.


The Process of Plasma Donation

The process of removing plasma from the body is also known as plasmapheresis. This is usually done by donating blood while the plasma gets extracted from the blood. Plasma is made out of 70% water and salt water. A lot of plasma donation centers ensure that the cells will not be damaged during extraction by using 17 or 16 gage needles.