Can diabetics donate blood


Can diabetics donate blood? What to know and how.

And in the UK there are some interesting rules:

If you are under investigations then please check again after these have been completed. You may donate as long as:

  • EITHER you have been diagnosed with pre-diabetes (abnormal blood sugar) or gestational (pregnancy) diabetes as long as you do not require treatment at present OR your diabetes is controlled by diet alone OR You are taking the same dose of the same medication for 4 weeks or more either orally or injectable medication such as Exenatide or Liraglutide and feeling fit and well and you must make sure that NONE of the following apply.
  • If the following apply we are sorry but you are unable to donate.
    • You need regular insulin treatment
    • You have needed treatment with insulin within the last 4 weeks
    • You have suffered from Heart Failure
    • You are under investigation, on treatment or under follow up for renal (kidney) impairment
    • You have had ulcers or wounds related to a loss of sensation
    • You have had amputation or blood vessel surgery
    • You have problems with feeling faint, fainting or giddiness

If you have had gangrene then please call us to discuss on 0300 123 23 23

Please always mention medication you are taking to the staff at session.

Donating blood with type 1 diabetes or type 2 diabetes

It doesn’t matter so much which type of diabetes you have. Most of the eligibility criteria above are more concerned with your overall blood sugar management and if you’re on medications (and what those medications are).

What about bovine (beef) insulin and donating blood?

What’s this stuff about bovine or beef insulin? Did you know that insulin used to come from the ground up pancreases of cows and pigs? Ewww, gross, right? Thankfully, smart scientists figured out how to grow human insulin in the lab using E. coli bacteria and yeasts in the early 80s and quit making purified pancreas smoothies. By the mid-80s, lab-grown human insulins were in wide use across most of North America and Europe.

If you’ve had diabetes long enough, you probably remember using beef or pork insulin before switching to one of the human varieties. In the case of donating blood, it’s an important detail.

If you used porcine (pork/pig) insulin, you can donate. If you used bovine (beef/cow) insulin anytime after 1980, you aren’t allowed to donate.

This donor exclusion rule is related to a variant of mad cow disease, and you can read more here. There’s no test in humans to screen blood donors for this and protect the blood supply, so all possible sources of introduction have to be eliminated, no matter how small the risk.

Beef or bacon?

And here’s the rub. If that’s you, in most cases, we’re talking about more than thirty years ago. Unless you have a photographic memory or have your medical records, how can you know for sure whether your insulin came from pigs or cows?

Unfortunately, we don’t have an answer for you, and that sucks. We’re sorry.

If you find a great solution or have any additional information, please let us know. We’d love to update this post to help more potential donors.

Donating Blood With Type 1 Diabetes

According to the American Red Cross, every two seconds someone needs blood. We all know that donating blood is a worthy thing to do. But the donation of blood assumes a cooperative body and a donation system that will accept the blood running through your veins.

So what does that mean for those with T1D? Many are under the assumption that a diagnosis means they can’t donate. Wrong. For the most part, giving blood is an option, but it does depend on the following:

  • Where you live
  • Your blood sugar levels
  • What type of insulin you are taking

Consider your own safety

T1D should not put you at any greater risk of feeling feint or nauseous while donating. Some T1D patients report their BGLs run slightly higher for 3-5 days after donating. Your immediate levels shouldn’t be influenced either way — you won’t suddenly spike or bottom out. Doctors do say your A1C or HbA1c (glycated hemoglobin, which measures one’s three-month blood sugar level) may be falsely lowered, a temporary effect thought to be caused by blood loss and accelerated red blood cell turnover.

If you want to donate, but are concerned about the health consequences, talk to your doctor first. After donating, it’s crucial to closely monitor your blood sugar levels and re-nourish your body. Increase your fluid intake and consider eating more iron-rich foods for a few days. Be smart: use common sense. Take care of yourself the same way you always would.

US donor requirements

  • Be in good overall health (the day they plan to donate)
  • Have a weight of 110 pounds or more
  • Be at least 17 years old (in most states), parental consent is required for 16-year-old donors

When you arrive to donate, a donation professional will take you through a screening process requiring you to disclose any health conditions, including T1D. You should be ready to provide additional information on your diabetes and the medications you’re taking. Your A1C will not be tested before you give blood, so your honesty regarding your diabetes is crucial. As long as your BGLs are within a normal range, your blood is acceptable for donation. Blood with too much sugar in it doesn’t store well.

If you pass the general health test and your levels are stable, the only remaining factor is the source of your insulin. Those who have used bovine-derived insulin any time between now and 1980 are disqualified from donating due to the risk of vCJD (mad cow disease). Studies have shown a small possibility that mad cow can be passed through blood transfusions.

The donation process is typically quick, taking under an hour.

Preparing to give blood

  • Drink plenty of water
  • Do not donate if you are sick
  • Get enough sleep
  • Avoid intense exercise/any major lifting
  • Have a snack
  • Limit caffeine intake
  • Be prepared to disclose any medications you are currently on
  • Eat iron-rich, protein-rich foods
  • Avoid fatty foods, smoking and alcohol
  • Try to relax

After donating

  • Continue to hydrate
  • Rest if feeling lightheaded
  • Avoid any strenuous exercise/activity 24 hours after
  • Continue adding iron-rich foods to your diet if it suits you

UK donor requirements

NHS Blood and Transplant (the governing health organization responsible for blood) refuses blood donations from those who may be put at greater health risk by giving. Sadly they lump most diabetes patients into this category, as they refuse blood from anyone taking any form of insulin, whether via injections or pump therapy. This disqualifies not only Type 1 patients from donating, but some patients with Type 2 diabetes as well.

Australia donor requirements

Much like the United States, diabetes patients are eligible to donate via the Red Cross as long as they have no complications from their diabetes — such as eye, blood vessel, or kidney problems — and their BGLs are under control. If you’ve used bovine-derived insulin in the past, however, you may not be eligible.

Canada donor requirements

Canada does not allow people with Type 1 diabetes to donate blood. People with Type 2 diabetes who are working to keep blood sugars down are eligible to donate.

Read Heart Health & T1D.

When it comes to giving blood, there are a number of conditions that can make you ineligible.

Unfortunately, people with diabetes won’t, in most cases, be eligible to give blood. At least, not in the UK.

This is because NHS Blood and Transplant (NHSBT) maintain a policy of refusing blood donations from anybody who may be placed at risk by giving blood. In many cases, this includes people with diabetes.

Prediabetes and giving blood

People who have been diagnosed with prediabetes are eligible to give blood, as long as they haven’t had any heart problems

Insulin and blood donation

People who take insulin are not allowed to give blood, which excludes both people with type 1 diabetes and people with type 2 diabetes who are insulin-dependent.

The affect of blood donations on insulin levels is considered a risk to the donor’s health. Because of this, people who are dependent on insulin are not permitted to give blood.

This applies to both regular insulin injections and insulin pump therapy.

Diabetes medication and giving blood

People who take diabetes medication can give blood, as long as their medication hasn’t changed in the last four weeks.

Medication changes include changes in dosage, as well as the type of medication taken.

If your medication has changed recently, the effect on your blood glucose means that your health would be at risk should you give blood.

Diabetes, the heart, and giving blood

People with diabetes who have experienced heart problems are, in most cases, ineligible to give blood. This includes people who have:

  • Experienced faintness or giddiness as a result of heart problems
  • Experienced heart failure
  • Had surgery for blocked or narrowed arteries (including amputation )

Conditions for giving blood

There are a number of conditions that may prevent you from giving blood. Some of them, although not always directly caused by diabetes, can be related, such as:

  • Ulcers related to numbness (perhaps caused by diabetic neuropathy ) or any other numbness-related heart condition
  • If you have had complicated dental work: over time, prolonged exposure to high blood glucose levels can damage the teeth, giving people with diabetes a heightened risk of needing complicated dental work such as a tooth extraction
  • If you have had a pancreatic tissue transplant, you will not be eligible to give blood

Giving blood and blood glucose levels

If you are eligible to give blood, your blood glucose levels do not have to be in a certain range.

Donating blood once or on a regular basis saves lives. Just one session of blood donation can impact many lives — but as a person with type 1 or type 2 diabetes, you may wonder: do they want my blood, too?

Does the American Red Cross want blood from a person with diabetes if their blood sugars aren’t perfect? If you have diabetes-related complications? If you have other conditions, like a thyroid disorder or Celiac disease or high cholesterol?

Let’s take a closer look at the rules and guidelines of blood donation for people with diabetes.

Table of Contents

Regardless of diabetes, you absolutely cannot donate if…

  • You are sick with a cold, flu, infection, etc.
  • You are pregnant
  • You have low iron levels
  • You’ve gotten a tattoo within the past year
  • You weigh less than 110 pounds
  • You are under 17 years old (16-year-olds need parental permission)
  • You have ever used recreational intravenous drugs or steroids
  • You’ve received a new piercing on your body within the past year
  • You have cancer
  • You have been in cancer remission for less than one year
  • You have Babesiosis
  • You’ve given birth within the last 6 weeks
  • You’re being treated for postpartum medical issues
  • You’ve received a blood transfusion within 1 year
  • You’ve undergone surgery recently (many details vary here)
  • You have HIV/Aids
  • You have heart disease
  • You have lung disease
  • You are being treated for Lyme’s disease

…read more about these criteria from GiveaPint!

Eligibility requirements for people with diabetes

In general, people with diabetes can donate blood, but your blood sugar levels, in particular, do matter.

When you first arrive at the donation center, you’ll be taken through a screening process where honesty counts! There is no reason to lie during your screening process. Telling the truth about your blood sugar levels ensures that your blood has the potential to save lives.

If you live in the United Kingdom or Canada

Both Canada and the United Kingdom do not allow people taking insulin to donate blood.

This means anyone with type 1 diabetes cannot donate, but those with type 2 diabetes can as long as they do not require insulin for blood sugar management.

Your A1c and general blood sugar management

The American Red Cross does not list a specific A1c or blood sugar level requirement for those with diabetes to be eligible.

That being said, blood with higher levels of glucose simply doesn’t maintain its quality during the storage period compared to blood with a normal glucose level.

This doesn’t mean you need perfect blood sugar levels to donate, but if you’ve been struggling with diabetes management and your A1c is well above 9 percent, or your blood sugar is over 200 mg/dL at the time of donating, you may want to wait until you’ve been able to bring your blood sugars down into a healthier range.

You will not have to prove your A1c or even your current blood sugar level at the time of donating, so it’s really up to you to be honest, and let the American Red Cross professionals determine if you qualify during the screening process.

If you’ve ever taken “bovine” insulin

While today’s modern insulins are all acceptable, a specific type of older insulin will automatically exclude you.

“Donors with diabetes who since 1980, ever used bovine (beef) insulin made from cattle from the United Kingdom are not eligible to donate,” explains the American Red Cross.

The concern with bovine insulin is about a “CJD variant” and “mad cow” disease.

Other diabetes medications

At this time, the only medication prescribed for diabetes management that prevents you from donating blood is Warfarin, which is actually intended to improve cholesterol levels but inadvertently improves blood sugar levels for some patients, too.

During your screening process, be sure to list all the medications you take!

Diabetes complications

Diabetes complications on their own may not automatically exclude you, but it’s critical to discuss these complications during the screening process.

The largest concern here is whether or not donating blood may actually worsen or exacerbate your own health, so it’s important to disclose any and all complications regarding your eyes, extremities (fingers, toes, feet, etc.), kidneys, skin, and so on.

For example, if you are struggling with retinopathy, the stress and changes in blood pressure that may occur during and after the blood donation process could affect the safety and health of your eyes.

Discuss any and all health concerns with your healthcare team or American Red Cross professionals before donating.

Different types of blood donation & basic eligibility

Regardless of diabetes, there are several different types of blood donation, and each type comes with different eligibility requirements, explained in detail by the American Red Cross:

Whole blood donation

A “whole blood” donation is just as it sounds: donating whole blood rather than donating specific aspects of blood (like platelets, etc.). Your donation will include the red cells, white cells, platelets, and plasma.

This is the simplest and easiest approach to blood donation because it doesn’t require processing the blood to pull out specific details and then intravenously cycling the “leftovers” back into your arm.

Eligibility for “whole blood” donation:

  • Frequency: no sooner than every 56 days
  • In good health and feeling well
  • At least 16 years old in most states
  • Weigh at least 110 lbs

Power Red Donation

A “power red” donation is much like donating whole blood, but a special machine actually pulls more blood cells from your blood. Then the machine returns the extra plasma and platelets back to you intravenous.

Eligibility for “power red” donation:

  • Frequency: no sooner than 112 days, up to 3 times/year or up to 2 times/year for men under age 18
  • In good health and feeling well
  • Male donors must be at least 17 years old in most states, at least 5’1″ tall and weigh at least 130 lbs
  • Female donors must be at least 19 years old, at least 5’5″ tall and weigh at least 150 lbs

Platelet Donation

A “platelet” donation is more time-intensive than a “whole blood” donation, but it’s a powerful donation that changes lives for those who need extra platelets.

“Platelets are tiny cells in your blood that form clots and stop bleeding. For millions of Americans, they are essential to surviving and fighting cancer, chronic diseases, and traumatic injuries,” explains the American Red Cross.

“Every 15 seconds someone needs platelets. Platelets must be used within five days and new donors are needed every day.”

Eligibility for “platelet” donation:

  • Frequency: no sooner than 7 days, up to 24 times/year
  • In good health and feeling well
  • At least 17 years old in most states
  • Weigh at least 110 lbs

AB Elite Plasma Donation

An “AB elite plasma” donation is very specialized and requires AB blood types, which means a significant percentage of people simply wouldn’t qualify.

This type of donation wants just your plasma, which means your blood is drawn, processed through a machine to remove just the plasma, and the red cells and platelets are returned to you, with additional saline. Despite the details, it doesn’t take much longer than a “whole blood” donation.

Eligibility for “AB elite plasma” donation:

  • Frequency: no sooner than every 28 days, up to 13 times/year
  • Must have type AB blood
  • Be in good health and feeling well
  • At least 17 years old
  • Weigh at least 110 lbs

Preparing for blood donation if you have diabetes

Before donating blood, you should try your best to:

  • Strive to keep blood sugars in a “normal” range the day before/of donating
  • Hydrate well by drinking plenty of water
  • Get plenty of sleep the night before
  • Do not perform intense exercise that same day, before or after donating
  • Be sure to have eaten a normal snack or meal
  • Be sure not to consume too much caffeine
  • Be prepared to disclose any medications you are currently on
  • Do not smoke or drink alcohol the day before/of donating

After you donate blood

  • Check your blood sugar frequently
  • Take insulin as directed
  • Drink plenty of water
  • Avoid intense exercise for at least 24 hours
  • Rest immediately if you’re feeling dizzy
  • Rest if feeling lightheaded
  • Eat your normal snacks and meals

For patients with type 1 diabetes

Some patients with type 1 diabetes report higher blood sugar levels during the few days after donating blood. This could be related to hydration levels — since becoming dehydrated can easily raise your blood sugar.

This means it’s extra important that you drink plenty of water after donating blood as a person with diabetes.

For patients with type 2 diabetes

Interestingly, recent research has found that people with diabetes who donate blood regularly see short and longterm improvements in their health.

“Heart attack, stroke and type II diabetes have all been shown to be less common in individuals that regularly donate blood,” explains research from the King Abdullah International Medical Research Center (KAIMRC).

For short-term health, the same study found that just one donation session temporarily improved insulin production and glucose tolerance.

“The improvement was particularly evident three weeks after donation. By three months, most of the tested biomarkers returned to their pre-donation levels.”

On the other hand, patients who donate blood shortly before an A1c test may have lower than accurate results, according to other research. Does this mean you shouldn’t donate? No — but it is something to keep in mind as you assess and manage your overall diabetes care.

Don’t let diabetes stop you from donating blood if you are otherwise healthy and the country you live in welcomes donations from those with diabetes!

Suggested next posts:

  • Is Diabetes a Disability? What the Law Says…
  • The 21 Best Diabetes Books

If you found this guide to donating blood and diabetes useful, please sign up for our newsletter (and get a free chapter from the Fit With Diabetes eBook) using the form below. We send out a weekly newsletter with the latest posts and recipes from Diabetes Strong.

Myths and facts about donating blood

Thought of as a selfless act, donating blood is a noble cause indeed. And yet very few of us take the time out to donate blood at blood donation drives or attend blood donor awareness campaigns.

From ‘blood donation causes weakness’ to the threat of catching diseases, several myths about blood donations abound. Today, Dr. Rani Prem Kumar, Consultant, Blood Bank at Moolchand Medcity, helps clear the air and tells us which myths and facts about donating blood are true, and which false.

Myth: Donating blood makes me feel low.
Fact: False. However, many people feel that donating blood makes them feel weak. Again, this isn’t true. The thread of truth here arises from the fact that it takes a day or two to replenish the fluid volume in the body and three months for the regeneration of red cells to donate more blood.

Myth: One is advised to take complete rest for a day after donating blood.
Fact: False. One can easily resume his or her normal day-to-day routine after donating blood, but should take care of the following:

– Drink at least 10-12 glasses of water including juices within 24 hours following blood donation.

– Avoid sun exposure.
– Avoid driving for the next 2-3 hours.
– Avoid smoking for next 4 hours.
– Avoid alcohol for next 24 hours.

Myth: Blood donation is a painful procedure.
Fact: False. Donating blood is not painful at all. One only feels a slight pinching sensation when the needle pricks the arms.
Myth: I should not donate blood frequently; it will make my body weak.

Fact: False. A healthy person can donate blood four times a year with a minimum a 3 months’ gap between each blood donation.
Myth: Can donating blood make me feel stressed with episodes of severe headache and vomiting?
Fact: No, blood donation can not cause episodes of headache and vomiting if the blood pressure of the donor is within normal limits prior to donation.
Myth: I should not donate blood frequently; it will lower my body’s immunity level.
Fact: No, your body’s immunity level is not affected by blood donation.
Myth: Donating blood frequently can fluctuate my blood pressure and blood sugar levels.

Fact: No, the blood pressure and blood sugar levels do not fluctuate provided the pre-donation values are within normal limits. A diabetic patient on insulin cannot donate blood.
Myth: Can donating blood at frequent intervals make my body iron deficient?
Fact: No, a healthy individual with good eating habits can donate blood four times a year with a gap of three months. It doesn’t make anybody iron deficient.
Myth: Blood donation takes a lot of time.
Fact: False. The whole procedure of blood donation from the time of registration takes approximately half an hour.
Myth: I am a retired person; I think I am too old to donate blood.
Fact: Yes, a person above 60 years and below 18 years cannot donate blood.
Myth: I can not donate blood when I am fasting.
Fact: Yes, one should have had a good meal at least four hours before donation.
Myth: Can frequent visits to the hospital for donating blood cause some infection?
Fact: No, there is no fear of infection due to blood donation.
Myth: You cannot be a blood donor if you are on any kind of medication.
Fact: Yes, a person on aspirin, antibiotics, anti-hypertensive, steroids, hormones, anticoagulants, on inhalers cannot donate blood.
Myth: A diabetic person can not donate blood.
Fact: Yes, diabetics on insulin are advised not to donate blood.
Myth: Can a pregnant lady donate blood?
Fact: No, pregnant women are not allowed to donate blood.
Myth: Can I donate blood, if I am nursing my baby/breastfeeding?
Fact: No, nursing mothers should not donate blood for at least six weeks after giving birth because donating blood affects the fluid level in the body and may also affect the milk supply.
Myth: Can I donate blood, if have consumed alcohol a day before?
Fact: No, it is not advisable to consume alcohol a day before donating blood.
Myth: Can I donate blood, if I smoke regularly?
Fact: Yes, but abstain from smoking one hour before and after donation.
Myth: Regular blood donation may lead to obesity.
Fact: False. Donating blood does not affect your body weight. However some people, after blood donation, eat more food than normal and avoid exercise which may cause weight gain but it is not directly connected to blood donation.
The habit of donating blood on a regular basis can further be strengthened if person follows:

– A healthy and balanced diet full of fresh and seasonal fruits, green leafy vegetables, vitamin A and B rich diet.

– Regular physical exercise.
– A healthy lifestyle.

Read more Personal Health, Diet & Fitness stories on

Can I Give Blood, Even Though I Have Diabetes?

The donation of an organ can be life saving for many people in need, and tissue transplantation can give them a chance to see, walk, or otherwise have a second chance at life. One can be a living donor or donate after death. Live donors, for example, can give a kidney or a part of their liver. Diabetics are excluded from being living donors, though. Here’s why: Diabetes impacts the kidneys, the pancreas, and other organs, and the procedure exposes the donor to surgical risks. However, you are eligible to donate your organs after death. This is because each organ is evaluated on a case-by-case basis and many parts of the body not affected by diabetes can be used to sustain life.

Q. 3 I’ve just read about how you can get false readings at high altitudes. I’ve been a type 2 diabetic for more than three years now and do keep my A1C at a very good level, and I’m well within my weight range. I’ve lived at a high altitude over seven years now and would hope that I’m getting the proper reading. Is it true that altitude can affect your readings?

— Joan, Colorado

Yes, it is true, and you are right to be concerned about the accuracy of your glucose meter readings. Self-monitoring of blood glucose is a very important aspect of managing your diabetes. You should know that the performance of the device you use is affected by a number of factors: altitude, humidity, temperature, oxygen saturation of blood, low atmospheric pressure, and a change in red blood cell count, as well as errors by the user. Some devices underestimate or overestimate the sugar level. Others have been shown to give accurate measurements at high-altitude places similar to Penrose, located at or above 6,000 feet.

You have been using your glucose meter for the last three years and have maintained good control. This probably means the device is giving you accurate or very close to accurate readings, or you have found the correlation between the glucometer readings and your hemoglobin A1C levels. The manufacturers of the devices can give you performance-related information on the specific glucometer you are currently using.

In general, the difference in performance at high altitudes for many of the devices is small and not detrimental. However, if you find a discrepancy between your glucometer readings and your hemoglobin A1C values, then you must start troubleshooting and consider that a possible cause for the discrepancy may be high altitude.

Try the printable Diabetes Glucose Log (PDF) right here on Everyday Health if you need help keeping track of your values.

Q. 4 There is a history of diabetes in my family, and I’ve been worried about getting it. Now my older sister just got diagnosed, and I feel it’s hit my generation for the first time. I’m a little overweight but not too much, and I try to watch what I eat. Is there a specific diet I should try to follow so that I don’t end up getting diabetes, too?

— Susan, New York

Congratulations! First, you recognize the predisposition you carry to the disease. Second, you are motivated to beat the odds. The good news is that there is something you can do to prevent diabetes. Two recent large studies have found that healthy habits can stave off diabetes among those who are at risk. These habits include eating a balanced diet, getting regular exercise, and maintaining a healthy weight. Of course, I understand if your eyes are glazing over, since this is the same mantra for everything from improving skin health to reducing the risk of heart disease and certain types of cancer. But seriously, a healthful diet should accomplish several things:

  1. Provide an adequate amount of vitamins, minerals, proteins, and essential fatty acids
  2. Help you lose weight
  3. Be pleasing to your palate
  4. Be a plan that you can maintain for the rest of your life.

There are many registered dietitians who can help design a plan for you. The specific composition of a diet that meets your body’s needs depends on your age, current health condition, and health risks, including diabetes. But simply put, if you make sure that every meal contains a variety of sources of vitamins and minerals, two of your meals contain one source of protein, and you use olive or canola oil (in lieu of animal fat), you should be able to meet most of your needs.

A quick way to ensure that you are consuming all that your body needs is to make your plate as colorful as you can. The colors of vegetables and fruits are an indication of the different vitamins they contain. You should also think outside the box when it comes to protein sources, which should include not only animal products such as meat, chicken, fish, cheese, milk, and eggs but also plant-based products such as soybeans/tofu, nuts, and legumes. Generally, the more plant-based protein sources you ingest, the fewer calories you consume.

While you concentrate on including vitamins, minerals, and proteins in your diet, you mustn’t forget that carbohydrates matter. We need carbohydrates as energy sources, and whole grains as a source of various vitamins and fiber. There are two categories of carbohydrates: simple and complex. If you remember anything, remember this: Avoid simple carbohydrates such as white bread, white-flour pasta, cakes, candy, and table sugar. Instead, focus on fruits, vegetables, and whole-grain products that contain complex carbohydrates and are a great source of energy.

More words to the wise: Don’t forget to pay attention to portion sizes and cooking methods, as both are very important in limiting caloric intake. Again, you must determine the amount of energy you need to reach your ideal body weight and adjust your caloric intake accordingly. A registered dietitian can help, but the rule of thumb is that regular exercise is key to maintaining weight loss and reducing sugar levels.

I know I have given you a general guide instead of a specific diet, in the hope that you can craft a plan that meets your particular needs, and one that you can maintain over the course of your life. Diabetes risk is a lifelong risk, and the changes you make in your diet and exercise plan should be long-term behavioral adaptations. Remember — an overall healthy diet, good weight maintenance, and regular exercise are key in reducing the odds of developing diabetes.

Learn more in the Everyday Health Type 2 Diabetes Center.

Kidney donation for people with pre-diabetes

Can I be a kidney donor if I have pre-diabetes?

Maybe. Pre-diabetes means your blood sugar levels are higher than normal, but not high enough to be diabetes.

To qualify as a kidney donor, you’ll first need to make changes to try to lower your blood sugar. This may prevent your pre-diabetes from turning into diabetes.

Why is pre-diabetes a problem for kidney donation?

Pre-diabetes is a problem for kidney donors because:

  • Pre-diabetes may turn into diabetes unless you can lower your blood sugar level
  • Diabetes (especially type 2 diabetes) can cause kidney disease and is the most common reason for kidney failure in the United States

UNOS, the organization responsible for organ donation in the U.S., will not allow people with diabetes to donate.

How can doctors tell if I’m healthy enough to donate a kidney?

To see if you’re healthy enough to donate a kidney, you’ll have a donor evaluation. The evaluation is a series of tests doctors do to check your overall health and make sure there aren’t any problems that would keep you from donating.

To see if you have diabetes or pre-diabetes, doctors will:

  • Ask about your family medical history, since diabetes can run in families
  • Check your weight and age
  • Test your blood for high levels of blood sugar and higher than normal hemoglobin A1c, which are signs of diabetes and pre-diabetes

What happens if tests show I have pre-diabetes?

If your blood sugar level is higher than 110mg/dl, it means you have pre-diabetes.

1. Doctors will help you find ways to make lifestyle changes to lower your blood sugar, such as:

  • Change your eating habits
  • Lose weight
  • Add exercise to your daily life

You’ll need to keep doing these lifestyle changes for the rest of your life.

2. After you’ve made these lifestyle changes, doctors will retest your blood sugar and let you know if you’re healthy enough to donate.

  • If your blood sugar level is within normal range, you might be able to donate a kidney
  • If your blood sugar level is still high, you may not be able to donate – especially if you are young and have many years ahead when diabetes may develop

How can I learn more about my chance of getting diabetes?

You can talk to your doctor or go to the American Diabetes Association website, at

What Kidney Donors Need to Know: Before, During and After Donating a Kidney [Transcript]

Watch the video

Dr. Karl Womer talks about kidney donors at Johns Hopkins. Watch the video

Featuring Karl Womer, M.D., Assistant Professor of Medicine, Nephrology

Describe what you do.

I’m Doctor Karl Womer, Assistant Professor of Medicine at Johns Hopkins. My role is to perform the medical evaluations of potential kidney donors. These evaluations include an extensive review of the medical history and complete physical exam, including review of pertinent labs and imaging studies, and an extensive counseling session regarding the potential medical risks of donation.

What makes someone a good candidate to donate a kidney?

To be a kidney donor, one must have no evidence of kidney disease, but also not have any evidence of major medical conditions that would unduly increase the risk for kidney disease in the future.

What are some of the reasons why someone might donate a kidney?

The most common reason for donation is due to emotional ties, such as between spouses and other family members. However, increasingly we are finding donors who are interested in donating in a non-directed fashion. In these donations, they donate to people they do not personally know. The motivations of these individuals is best summed up by one of my previous donors who said that his life would not be complete if he died with two kidneys and was not able to donate one to someone to help them out.

What are the misconceptions about kidney donation?

The biggest misconception that I think we have in the donation process is that there needs to be a perfect match. Certainly the outcomes are improved when the donor and recipient are perfectly matched, however we know now that the survival on dialysis is greatly decreased compared to transplantation, so it is really important to have a transplant as soon as possible and with any degree of matching it’s better to have a transplant than not.

What are the medical conditions that may prevent someone from donating a kidney, like diabetes?

First and foremost, we want to ensure that a donor is healthy enough to survive the surgery with no major complications; however we are also concerned about their future risk of kidney disease. Diabetes is a major medical problem in the United States and worldwide, and 30-40% of diabetics will develop some form of kidney disease. Part of my job is to ensure that a potential donor does not have diabetes and that their risk for developing diabetes in their lifetime is acceptably low.

Is hypertension a factor in kidney donation?

We know that hypertension can contribute to kidney disease, however we have found that certain individuals over 50 years of age can safely donate a kidney with hypertension, as long as their hypertension is well controlled and they have no other major medical comorbidities.

Is obesity a factor in whether or not someone is considered for kidney donation?

Obesity is a major epidemic in the United States nowadays and research has not been done to determine the long term consequences of obesity on kidney disease. For our donors, we recommend that they limit caloric intake and perform regular exercise to keep their body weight in the normal range.

What do you do to manage the health of the donor before and after donation surgery?

First and foremost, we want to ensure that the donor is healthy enough to undergo donation surgery without any major medical or surgical complications. However, there is also concern for the long term health of the individual and our donors are followed on a regular basis by a transplant coordinator who will review their lab work at periodic intervals and make recommendations as needed to keep them in health.

Are there any short term effects from donating a kidney?

There are potential medical complications following donation. For instance, studies have shown that blood pressure can rise a bit after the donation process. There are more worrisome long term medical complications, including the need for dialysis in the future. We hope to minimize this through our evaluation process, but we know there will be some donors who, unfortunately, do lose their kidney function and require dialysis. Several recent studies, however, have shown that donors tend to do as well or better than the general population in regard to long term medical complications.

If someone donates a kidney and later in life that kidney fails, do they receive priority for a transplant themselves?

Unfortunately, some donors have lost their kidney function and require dialysis several years after donation. There is a priority system in place so that donors receive extra points for deceased donor kidney transplant when they are on the waiting list.

Why should someone considering donating a kidney choose Johns Hopkins?

I think the most important part of Johns Hopkins transplantation is the teamwork. All members of the team across the whole spectrum work extremely hard and feed off each other to do the best job they can in taking care of our patients.

Contact the Johns Hopkins Comprehensive Transplant Center.

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If you have been diagnosed with diabetes, you may have questions about donating blood.

Blood banks are always in need of donations. During disasters and other emergencies, people often require blood transfusions to survive.
It’s only natural that people with diabetes will want to help in situations when blood transfusions are needed, and people with both Type 1 and Type 2 Diabetes can and do donate blood in the United States.

It’s important to note that just one pint of blood can help up to three people in need.

However, there are some things that you need to know before you donate blood and have diabetes.

In this article, we will look at the requirements for donating blood with diabetes, as well as general requirements for donating blood in the United Kingdom, Canada, and Australia.

Sylvia’s story

Sylvia came in for diabetes education. She wanted to donate blood since everyone at work was getting involved in the blood drive. Her employer was offering a half day off work for employees giving blood. You can’t blame Sylvia for not wanting to miss out on free time off, and help others in the process.

Several months ago, Sylvia had just been diagnosed with diabetes, and her blood sugars and A1C were not in target. Sylvia still felt fatigued often, and she wasn’t sure if donating blood was a good idea since she didn’t have her diabetes management where it needed to be.

The afternoon Sylvia was scheduled to come in to donate blood, her two-hour post-meal blood sugar was 237 mg/dL and her A1C was still over 10% at her last doctor visit a month ago. Should Sylvia have donated blood at the blood drive that afternoon?

Let’s explore this, and other questions that you may have about donating blood with diabetes.

What do I need to know before I donate blood with diabetes?

It’s good to know the Red Cross guidelines when you plan to donate blood with diabetes. The Red Cross will take blood donated from people with diabetes in the United States if the person has their diabetes under control. It doesn’t matter if you are on insulin, have Type 1 or Type 2 Diabetes, as long as you are well managed, and are in generally good health.

Donation process

The donation process is fairly easy, and you should be in and out within the hour.

Screening for blood donation with diabetes

The general age to donate blood is 16. Age does vary by state, so check with your local Red Cross blood banks for the age cut-off to donate blood in your state.

Will your blood sugar or your A1C be tested before you give blood? No, they will not go to such extremes, therefore, it is your responsibility to be honest with the Red Cross when attempting to donate blood with diabetes.

At the blood bank, a Red Cross representative will check your vital signs, including your temperature, heart rate, and blood pressure, and weight. They will check your blood to determine your Hemoglobin. This lets the Red Cross know if you are anemic, which means that you have a lower number of red blood cells than is considered normal. If you are anemic, you won’t be able to give blood until your red blood cells return to the normal number. You will have to treat your anemia before you consider donating blood.

Additionally, you must weigh at least 120 pounds, and be at least 5 feet, 4 inches tall to give blood in the United States.

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Your diabetes should be under controlled before you donate blood

To donate blood with diabetes, your blood sugar needs to be in your target range. Your A1C should be less than 7%, as recommended by the American Diabetes Association. If your blood sugars and diabetes are not well controlled, you shouldn’t donate blood.

It’s up to you to let the Red Cross know. If you are unsure about the condition of your diabetes, discuss your concerns with your healthcare provider. They will be able to help you decide if giving blood is a good idea, or if you should wait until your diabetes is better managed.

You should be in good overall health before you donate blood with diabetes

Besides having your blood sugars in control, you should also have other conditions under control. For example, your blood pressure should be less than 180/100 mmHg to give blood, which is higher than 140/90 mmHg that is the recommended blood pressure for people with diabetes. Conversely, if your blood pressure is less than 90/50 mmHg, you won’t be able to donate blood.

Besides diabetes, they will also ask you about other conditions, and medications which you may be taking. Diabetes medications generally won’t keep you from giving blood in the US, but there is a Red Cross list of other medications that shouldn’t be taken if you are donating blood, including blood thinners. The Red Cross representative will screen you for conditions and medications which may affect your ability to donate blood with diabetes and related health conditions.

Another thing to know is that if you plan to donate platelets, you should not take aspirin or blood thinners for several days prior to your donation. 1

Heart disease and donating blood

If you have heart complications from your diabetes, there are some things that you need to know. Heart disease will generally not stop you from donating blood if you have diabetes, but if it has been less than six months since you have had symptoms related to your heart disease, then you may not be able to donate.

If your heart disease is stable and being treated, and you have had no issues in the last six months, such as chest pains or shortness of breath, you should then be okay to donate blood. You should also have no restrictions of activities due to your heart if you plan to donate blood.

You will have to wait six months following episodes of chest pains and shortness of breath, as well as following heart surgeries or procedures, such as heart catheterizations. If your heart medications have been changed, you must wait six months until you are stable on them.

For those with a pacemaker, six months following your procedure, you should be safe to donate blood as long as your heart rate is between 50 and 100, and other criteria for giving blood with heart conditions are met. It’s a good idea to sit down with your healthcare provider, and have a talk to determine if it is safe to donate blood.

Other factors that affect whether you can donate blood

If you travel internationally, there may be some instances where you can’t donate blood. The Red Cross will screen you for travel to specific affected countries where donating blood may pose a risk to the recipient of the blood.

How long does it take to donate blood?

It generally takes about an hour to donate a pint of blood at a blood bank. It’s just a small amount of time that you must give from your day to help up to three people with your blood donation.

The actual blood donation part only takes about ten minutes. A large gauge needle will be inserted into your vein. It generally hurts when going in, but subsides after the initial pinch. You will be able to rest comfortably in a chair while you donate.

How can I prepare for donating blood?

It’s important to be prepared for when you donate blood with diabetes. Below are a few tips to make sure you are ready to give blood.

If you aren’t feeling well the day of blood donation, reschedule your donation

It’s important to be feeling your best prior to giving blood. If you are feeling under the weather, it’s best to postpone blood donation until you are at your optimal level of health. Donating blood is tiresome, and many people feel weak and fatigued following blood donation.

Eat regular meals for several days before giving blood with diabetes

Besides keeping your blood sugars and A1C in target with appropriate lifestyle changes, you should also make sure that you eat regular meals for several days before giving blood. If you have diabetes, you should be eating regular meals anyway, so it shouldn’t be much of a stretch to accomplish.

Hydrate with non-carbohydrate fluids prior to donating blood with diabetes
Drinking extra non-carbohydrate fluids, mainly water, will also help you to hydrate prior to donating blood with diabetes. It’s a good idea to hydrate, and eat adequate meals for several days prior to your blood being donated to the Red Cross. You want to make sure that you have adequate nutrition and hydration before giving blood.

Eat iron-rich foods for several days prior to donating blood with diabetes

Iron-rich foods help to raise blood hemoglobin. Therefore, eating spinach, kale, or other greens, and fish, chicken, red meat that is lean, as well as beans, raisins, and cereals and other foods that have iron added to them, can help your blood hemoglobin test higher when you are giving blood with diabetes.

You may also want to take a vitamin with iron, or talk to your healthcare provider about a prescription iron tablet if needed.

You should take iron supplements for at least two weeks prior to donating blood with diabetes.

Avoid caffeine on the day of blood donation, and drink water before donating blood
You should limit caffeine on the day of the donation. In addition, avoid alcohol, and drink at least 16 ounces of water to keep hydrated.

Avoid high fat containing foods on blood donation day

You should always avoid foods with a high fat content when you have diabetes, but it’s particularly important to do so on blood donation day, because high fat foods may affect the blood tests that the Red Cross does to determine your eligibility to give blood.

If there is an excessive amount of fat in your blood, the Red Cross will be unable to test your blood for infectious processes that could affect the recipient. Therefore, your blood will not be able to be used for transfusions. You would be donating blood for nothing. Make sure not to eat high fat foods, such as ice cream, fried foods, and high fat meats prior to giving blood.

Try to get a full eight hours of sleep prior to donating blood
Getting adequate sleep can help you avoid post-blood donor fatigue. Plan on getting a full eight hours of sleep prior to giving blood.

Bring a list of all the medications that you are taking to the blood bank
Make sure that you bring with a full list of all medications, and supplements. The list should include all your diabetes medications, and any medications that you take for other conditions, such as high blood pressure, or heart disease.

If you have ever received bovine(beef) insulin anywhere, you can’t give blood due to possibility of “Mad Cow” disease. This isn’t likely to be the case in the US, but if someone with diabetes in the US has lived in the United Kingdom, it’s possible they could have received insulin made from cows at some point.

You will need your identification before donating blood

When you go to the blood bank, make sure to carry your driver’s license, other picture identification, or two other forms of identification with you.

During your blood donation

When you go to the blood bank, dress appropriately. Make sure that your shirt has sleeves that are loose enough to be pushed above your elbow. If possible, help out the Red Cross volunteer and show them your best veins. Most people with diabetes know where their best veins are located.

Take something to read, or a music player with head phones so that you can relax during the donation process. It’s helpful to look away, and to think about something else, like a nice day at the beach, rather than watching the nurse insert the needle. A little distraction goes a long way to trick your brain into barely feeling the needle going in.

After you donate, get a drink and a snack so that you don’t get lightheaded. Giving blood can take a lot from you! It’s a great thing to do, but some people will feel faint, and may even pass out.

I know this to be true, as in high school when I gave blood, I fainted and was weak the rest of the day in the nurse’s office. As an adult, weighing a bit more, and knowing how to prepare, I can give blood with no problems.


Intake of iron

It’s a good idea to eat iron-rich foods for up to six months following your blood draw. It takes that long for your red blood cells to duplicate, and make a pint of whole blood.

Get your rest after giving blood

Make sure that you get some rest, and a good night’s sleep. When you donate blood, it takes some of your blood volume, and it takes awhile for your body to make more red blood cells, and increase your hemoglobin again. Getting rest can help your body to rejuvenate those blood cells that you donated.

What can I expect after donating blood with diabetes?

For the next 24 hours after donating blood with diabetes, make sure that you drink plenty of fluids. Stay away from alcohol, as it may only increase your dizziness or weakness if you have any, or cause it if you don’t.

You will have a bandage where the needle went into your arm. Leave it on for at least several hours after you give blood. Make sure not to plan any vigorous activity or exercise for the rest of the day, and don’t lift anything weighing more than 15 pounds.

If the site where the needle was inserted starts to bleed through the bandage, make sure that you apply pressure, and hold your arm up above your heart for at least 10 minutes.

You can call the Red Cross at 1-866-236-3276 to report any information that you may have forgotten to disclose during your visit. You can also report any issues you may have encountered while donating blood, or issues after giving blood that required medical care. Visit the Red Cross at, to learn more about why you need more iron after you donate blood. 2

Always monitor your blood sugar before and after giving blood

It’s important to check your blood sugars often before and after giving blood. You will want to make sure that you are not having a low or high blood sugar.

Is it safe to donate blood as a person with diabetes?

Yes, it’s generally safe for people with diabetes to give blood if their diabetes is well managed, and have no other health issues, such as heart disease, high blood pressure.

Under what circumstances will I not be able to donate blood

If your diabetes is not well managed, and you have other health problems, you shouldn’t donate blood.


Can you donate blood if you have diabetes in the United States?

If you live in the United States, and you have Type 1 or Type 2 Diabetes, you can donate blood. This article primarily refers to blood donation for people with diabetes in the United States, but we will look at a few other countries, and their rules for blood donation. The United Kingdom has some different restrictions for blood donations which we will briefly touch upon.

The following is the statement from the American Red Cross related to donating blood with chronic health conditions, such as diabetes:

“To give blood for transfusion to another person, you must be healthy, be at least 17 years old or 16 years old if allowed by state law. You must weigh at least 110 pounds, and not have donated whole blood in the last 8 weeks (56 days) or double red cells in the last 16 weeks (112 days). “Healthy” means that you feel well and can perform normal activities. If you have a chronic condition such as diabetes or high blood pressure, “healthy” also means that you are being treated and the condition is under control.

Most chronic illnesses are acceptable as long as you feel well, the condition is under good control, you have an adequate hemoglobin level and your temperature is normal when you come to donate, and you meet all other eligibility requirements.

Donors with diabetes who since 1980, ever used bovine (beef) insulin made from cattle from the United Kingdom are not eligible to donate. This requirement is related to concerns about variant CJD, or ‘mad cow’ disease.”

Can you donate blood if you have diabetes in the United Kingdom?

If you have Type 2 Diabetes which is controlled by diet and oral diabetes medications, you shouldn’t have any trouble giving blood in the United Kingdom.

If you have Type 1 Diabetes, and you wish to donate blood in the United Kingdom, the blood bank representative will ask you questions about how long you have been taking insulin, and what kinds of insulin you have been taking throughout your time with your Type 1 Diabetes. Similarly, if you take insulin for your Type 2 Diabetes, you will also be asked these questions.

The reason is that many people in the United Kingdom have received beef or “bovine” insulin since the early 1980s. This will disqualify you from donating blood, due to the chances that the beef insulin might have carried “Mad Cow Disease.”

Similarly, with CJD (Creutzfeldt-Jakob Disease, or Mad Cow disease), if you have received growth hormones, or a brain transplant, you won’t be eligible to donate blood in the United Kingdom.

This does mean that many people with Type 1 and Type 2 Diabetes in the United Kingdom are not eligible to donate blood. In many cases, people in the United Kingdom have not been allowed to donate blood if they take insulin of any type.

This seems to be due to misinformation among blood donor bank representatives, who don’t understand the different kinds of insulins very well. Due to this, people taking Humulin or Novolin human insulins have also been turned away from donating blood in the United Kingdom.

In addition, the UK recognizes that the affect of donating blood on insulin levels presents a risk for the person with insulin-dependent diabetes who wants to donate blood. This is another reason why people on insulin are not able to give blood in the UK. The regulations apply to both insulin injections, and insulin delivered by pump, but doesn’t specify if inhaled insulin will be a problem, such as Afrezza.

If you don’t take insulin, you will be able to donate blood with diabetes as long as you haven’t had a change in your medications in the previous four weeks. This could be a change in the dose of your medication, as well as the addition of a new medication for your diabetes.

The new medications and changed dosages can affect your blood sugar, which can put you at risk of blood sugar problems if you donate blood.

In addition, if you have heart disease, you will not be able to donate blood in most cases. Some things that may keep you from donating are faintness, heart failure, or surgeries for arteries that are narrowed or blocked off. This also includes the amputation of limbs.

Other conditions related to the complications of diabetes that will keep you from donating are foot ulcers from nerve damage or neuropathies related to diabetes, tooth infections or dental problems requiring tooth extractions, or transplants of pancreatic tissues. 3

Can you donate blood in Canada if you have diabetes?

In Canada, like the United Kingdom, you can’t donate blood unless you are a non-insulin dependent diabetic. You will likely not be able to donate blood if you take insulin.

Can you donate blood in Australia if you have diabetes?

Yes, you can donate blood in Australia if you have diabetes, regardless of the fact that you take insulin or not. You will need to show that your diabetes is managed well. However, please note that there are still other health conditions that could preclude you from donating blood with diabetes, such as complications of diabetes.

What if you get turned down for some reason to donate blood with diabetes?

If you are unable to give blood when you have diabetes, whether due to unmanaged blood sugars, or complications of diabetes, you can still help by donating money to the Red Cross. Your donation will help the Red Cross with providing supplies for blood donation banks, providing support to families in crisis who are in need, and helping to educate people on lifesaving techniques. There are many things that the Red Cross does to help others. Your donation will help them fulfill their mission. 4

Over to you

You have diabetes and have recently donated blood or are thinking of donating blood?

Please share your comments with our readers to help them make an educated and well-informed decision if they choose to donate blood as well. We hope this article has been helpful.

TheDiabetesCouncil Article | Reviewed by Dr. Christine Traxler MD on September 08, 2018

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Last Updated: Saturday, September 8, 2018 Last Reviewed: Saturday, September 8, 2018

Who Can Donate?

All people should consider themselves potential organ and tissue donors—regardless of age, health, race, or ethnicity. Don’t rule yourself out! No one is too old or too young to be a deceased donor and most major religions support donation.

Here are some of the most commonly asked questions related to organ donation eligibility.

What if I have a health condition?

Even with an illness or a health condition, you may be able to donate your organs and/or tissues upon death. If the situation arises upon death, doctors will examine your organs and determine whether they are suitable for donation. Only few conditions would absolutely prevent a person from becoming a donor—such as active cancer or a systemic infection.

At what age can someone become a donor?

Newborns and senior citizens into their 90s have been organ donors. The health of your organs is more important than your age.

Donation for People 50+ >

Pediatric Donation >

Does my religion support donation?

The act of organ donation enjoys broad support among many religions in the United States. Some major religions have released official statements or policies about donation.

Religious Views on Organ Donation >

Can I be a living donor?

Although most donations come from deceased donors, a few organs (a kidney, part of a liver, lung, pancreas, or intestine, and some tissues) can be donated by living donors. Living donors most frequently donate a kidney.

Living Donation >

Who Can Sign Up as a Donor?

Because so few people who sign up can actually become donors, we hope everyone will register, so we can save more lives. Here are guidelines about registration.

Over 18. All people age 18 and older can register to be an organ, eye, and tissue donor. You can choose what you wish to donate, and you can change your status at any time.

Under 18. In many states, people younger than 18 can also register, although their families will have the final say if the occasion arises for donation before they turn 18.

Sign up as an organ donor >

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