General Question

seekingwolf's avatar

Does frequent blood/platelet donation harm your veins?

Asked by seekingwolf (10342 points ) March 25th, 2014

I started donating my platelets and plasma regularly (every 2 weeks) a couple months ago. I am not getting paid or anything, but my blood type is really good for platelet donation, my veins are healthy so the process is quick (about an hour), and my fluids are replaced with saline so I feel great afterwards. It’s also kind of fun to sit in a warm leather chair and watch TV for a good cause!

Anyway, my veins are still great but I am worried that donating every 2 weeks is going to harm them or something. Make them collapse or something. Can someone put my fears to rest?

BTW, it’s a 2 arm system, 1 IV in each arm. 1 IV pulls my blood out of me and the other IV returns my red blood cells, sans platelets and some plasma, with some saline to keep me well hydrated.

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31 Answers

zenvelo's avatar

No, because you’re not putting anything other than blood and saline back in. From what I understand, it’s pushing something into your vein that is not normally full strength in the blood stream.

A friend has been getting a “Myer’s Push” which is a cocktail of B vitamins and some other mineral supplements, as part of her recovery from cancer treatments. It is administered via IV, and it has “worn out” her vein. That’s because of the strength of the cocktail interacting with the walls of the vein.

seekingwolf's avatar

Thanks for the answer. It’s just something I was worried about. I’d like to keep donating.

GloPro's avatar

Ask the phlebotomists next time you’re there.
Good on ya for your donation. I donate my AB- blood every two months. I’ve considered plasma, but with my ADHD I really don’t think I could sit still in a chair with both arms taken away from me for that long. Plus I’m a commitment phobe, and you really do need to be a regular donator to make it most useful for donating. That’s why most pay.

Coloma's avatar

I have a rare blood type, O- with the RH factor and donate about every 2 months. I wasn’t aware that one was allowed to donate more than every 60 days or so.
I donate to Stem Express for research purposes, perhaps regular donating at a blood bank has different protocol.
I too have good veins and have never had an issue.

Are you donating at the same facility or are you randomly donating and not disclosing the frequency?

seekingwolf's avatar

If you are donating whole blood, you can’t donate more than every 60 days or so.

I used to donate whole blood here and there but stopped after my weight loss surgery because I am already at risk for dehydration since I don’t get hungry and I have to “remind” myself to eat and drink, also I don’t want to compromise my iron levels (I’m on a supplement). So I only donate platelets now. Platelet donors can donate every 7 days. That’s because platelets are replaced quickly and barely any red cells are lost.

I go to the Red Cross. Same location too, cause it’s about 5 miles from my apartment. I have a Red Cross Donor card that gets scanned every time I go, so the staff always know about my frequency. Actually, I am starting to get to know the staff because I’ve been there a few times. It’s a very clean, professional facility staffed with nice RNs who take good care of you.

My blood is A+ by the way. They had some platelet shortage in the area and kept talking about how they needed A+ or O+ people to donate platelets. That’s how I got involved. I have a high platelet count so I routinely can give 2–3 whole units per one visit.

I will ask the RN next time I am there. I usually go on a Saturday morning when I am free and don’t have anything to do. While I’d love to get paid for donating, the fact that I am not compensated doesn’t stop me. It’s still kind of fun! (strange I know, my boyfriend thinks I’m weird for going as often as I do).

GloPro's avatar

@Coloma with plasma donation it is not required that you wait 60 days because they put RBCs,WBCs, and a saline solution back into your system. You aren’t a pint shy.
With whole blood donation they take a pint and leave your body doing the work to replace fluid, white and red blood cells. RBC depletion affects the body’s perfusion. WBC depletion affects immunity. Plasma depletion dehydrates the body and stresses the heart/blood pressure because there isn’t as much blood volume to go around. It takes a little bit to replenish those things naturally, therefore they require a two month down time for whole blood donation.
[edit] I’ve never understood why they hound me for my blood so much. Being AB-, I have the most rare blood type, at about 2% of the population. I can take blood from an A, a B, or an AB, but I can only donate to another AB-. Seems like my blood is kind of useless if there are so many options for receiving.

KNOWITALL's avatar

My friend got notified by the donation center that his platelets are off, so now his GP is involved and he has to stop donating for a bit to see what’s going on.

seekingwolf's avatar

Yeah, isn’t that a sign of possible illness, like cancer? I’m sorry about your friend.

My platelet count was 390 prior to my weight loss surgery. Now it hovers around 330–360. That’s probably because I only eat about 700–750 calories a day.

Coloma's avatar

@GloPro Hah…how cool is that!
Us O- make up about 7% of the population and are the only true universal donors that can give to all types. Sadly, we can only receive O- blood, sooo, we are SOL if there is not enough O- blood on hand at any particular medical institution in the event we need a transfusion or extra juice of our own flavor.
Funny because I was thinking of asking a Q. and inquiring as to other rare blood types here on Fluther. The plasma makes sense, I have yet to give plasma, they just want my whole blood! lol

GloPro's avatar

@Coloma I am genuinely confused about mine. When I check in at the donation center and tell them AB- they don’t even make me wait in line. I think it has more to do with the negative factor, but seriously, my blood only goes to the 2% of us with my blood, but there are tons of A and B peeps out there, so I’m never going to be SOL like an O- would be. I could understand them hunting you down. Me? No… But I get phoned at least twice a week until I make an appointment once those 60 days are up.
I do know that AB- blood plasma is universally more useful than any other. Maybe they just take my whole blood and separate it since I keep refusing plasma donation.

seekingwolf's avatar

That’s probably why they keep hounding you – your plasma is really needed. They can separate it from your whole blood donation. It’s because of the Rh- factor. I am Rh+ but I was told that they really need plasma specifically from Rh- donors, at least in my area.

gondwanalon's avatar

Anytime that you poke a hole in a vein you cause some damage and therefore a little scarring. Very large needles that are used in blood donations (17 or 16 guage) cause more damage than the smaller needles used in obtaining venous blood for testing. Therefore the more frequent the blood donation the more damage to the vein and more scarring.

GloPro's avatar

@gondwanalon Source?

It is my understanding that the body compensates well. Although you may have an area of your brachial artery thicken at the elbow it does not impact circulation.

Phlebes are trained to avoid scarring, and it isn’t always necessary to use the largest gauge needles. Long term (years) sticking will leave scar tissue, so switching arms or stick locations can be an option if you are concerned

seekingwolf's avatar

I have to use both arms at once so it’s a bit of a concern….1 arm for blood going out, the other for blood going in.

GloPro's avatar

Yes, but you can use other places along that vessel. You could ask if it had to be your elbow every time. Also, don’t they put the saline solution into a vein not an artery? If you swap arms occasionally it’s hitting an entirely different vessel all together.

seekingwolf's avatar

I’ll ask but my guess is that due to the size of the needle, they always opt for the elbow region.

As for the swapping arms, the machines are always set up on the left side of the chairs, so they have a pretty “set” way of doing things and hooking people up.

I guess the good thing is that I have big healthy veins so the process is quick for me. I see some older folks donate and their veins aren’t as big and it takes them 2–3 HOURS to donate the same amount of platelets that I do.

gondwanalon's avatar

@GloPro I’ve been working full time as a Medical Technologist for 37 years. I’ve seen what long tern frequent use of needles can do to veins. Of course blood bank personnel won’t tell you this. But go ahead and get your 20 gallon pin and then you ‘ll see feel for sure the scare tissue around and about the phlebotomy sites. You’ll just have to imagine the damage to your veins.

jaytkay's avatar

@seekingwolf you are doing good work, donating platelets. My blood center told me one platelet donation is equal to six whole blood donations. Good for you!

rojo's avatar

Nothing to worry about as others have well pointed out,.

Thanks for donating, Wish I still could.

28lorelei's avatar

I think a low platelet count can be a sign of many things, and sometimes it just happens on its own without an apparent cause… Good luck to your friend, @KNOWITALL
There is also a genetic condition which causes low platelets (interestingly, I have it, but fortunately, mine is pretty mild… doesn’t really affect my life aside from making bruises look more dramatic). Unfortunately though, this means I can’t donate and will never be able to…

seekingwolf's avatar

@gondwanalon I too work in the medical field and I see lots of scaring from needle use. Namely drug use or frequent blood sticks (like everyday) from when someone is in the hospital long term and they are sticking them 1–2x a day in the same spot!

Since I am donating just once every 2 weeks, I didn’t think it would affect it.

I’m still getting some mixed answers – am I doing damage or not?
Should I reduce it to once a month? Or is 2x a month okay?

@28lorelei

I think it’s genetic for me too. My platelet count has never been so high that it’s unhealthy, but it’s on the “high” end of normal, or at least it was prior to my surgery. I’ve had a layer of skin grow back over a small cut in 1–2 days, a very short time…not a scab, actual skin. I don’t need all those platelets but someone else could benefit.

gondwanalon's avatar

@seekingwolf Don’t worry your donations will not likely pose a significant damage. If you continue to donate platelets every 2 weeks for the next 40 years then you will have quite a bit of scar tissue built up around the needle stick sites. Just keep active and maintain a healthy lifestyle and you will be OK. You should work-out your arms to build muscular and vascular strength in your arms anyway but it is even more important for you to do that now. If you can, I suggest daily pushups, pull-ups, bench-press, arm curls etc. This will help the veins to get bigger and stronger.

My old lab manager was very proud of his multiple pints of blood that he donated. He had a 20 gallon pin with means that he donated at least 160 times. I could see and feel the needle stick sites but he seemed proud of his scars like they were a badge of selfless sacrifice.

Keep up the great work!

seekingwolf's avatar

@gondwanalon I will follow your advice and be sure to work out my arms more. I started water weights recently because I don’t want to lose muscle mass but maybe I should incorporate some dumb bells into my walking activity too.

I will listen to my body too. If I don’t feel well enough to donate or if I have something else going on, I can always opt to go another time. I like how the Red Cross allows me to set up appointments online, which is how I schedule my donations.

Thanks for the advice, everyone! I will keep doing what I’m doing.

GracieT's avatar

@seekingwolf, as a RedCross volunteer, I thank you (and all others who donate) on your donation. Never doubt, your donations do save MANY lives.

seekingwolf's avatar

@GracieT Thanks! I am actually going to donate later this week and then I have an appt set up that is 2 weeks from that donate. I am going 2x a month. It seems wrong of me to sit at home and sleep in when I could EASILY drive the few miles to my local Red Cross, sit and watch some TV, and give 3 platelet treatments knowing that they are sorely needed in my area.

seekingwolf's avatar

Update:

I wwent very recently and asked the RN who took care of me. Like me, he is a regular platelet donor and doesn’t give whole blood. He has done it for years and has some scar tissue. He says it helps to rotate locations. He said he doesn’t mind though because he is still able to get stuck and donate. He said a few early beginners have had some trouble with him but overall, because his veins are bigger (like mine) it’s not too bad.

He said it’s something to consider, it may make me a hard stick later in life. Nothing horrible or impossible, just that blood draws mat hurt more.

I thought about it and at this point, I’m okay with that. I’m a young, healthy 24 year old who is making steps toward long term health. I was able to give another 3 units of platelets in that one donation. I can deal with the pain. If it becomes a problem later in life, oh well. My doctor can have a PICC line installed if it’s such a problem. It doesn’t matter to me so we’ll cross that bridge when we come to it.

gondwanalon's avatar

@seekingwolf You should be commended for your selfless giving. You have encourage me to give a unit of whole blood on this Monday when I off of work. Only < 7% of the population has my blood type (A negative). Blood bank techs love to get my blood.

I’m 63 and do push-up, pull-up and dips very nearly every day. I can do over 20 perfect pull-ups (all the way up and all the way down with no kicking or jerking). Needless to say, I have large veins all over my arms and wrists for very easy I.V.‘s and blood-draws. I made a joke one time to a phlebotomist who was drawing my blood: “You only get 10 tries”. So just keep working out those arms and you will not have any problems with obtaining blood specimens in the future.

Good health!

seekingwolf's avatar

@gondwanalon

Good for you for donating! That is awesome! And yeah, A- is rare! Your blood is definitely needed.

I think I’m going to try pull-ups, once I’m able (I need to lose a little more weight). I want to keep my veins healthy. I’m thankful that the RNs at the Red Cross are so proficient at sticks. It really doesn’t hurt that much and they are good at what they do.

I’m already scheduled for my next appt (in about 2 weeks, on a Sat), and then another appt on the next Sat that is 2 weeks from that date. Just have to keep remembering to load up on TONS of calcium the day prior to donation because boy, that really makes a difference in terms of comfort. I just take a bigger dose of the supplement I take normally.

GracieT's avatar

@seekingwolf, don’t forget the iron! I can’t tell you the number of people that are turned away for low iron. (I usually talk to women about that, but I imagine it’s the same for blood, period!)
The blood supply is low right now, so THANK YOU all for donating!
One of the reasons I volunteer (out of many!) is that I cannot donate, so thank you all the more for donating if you can!

seekingwolf's avatar

I take a couple iron pills a day because I don’t get enough with what I eat after my surgery. My iron is pretty good.

I do get tested each time but I think when it comes to iron, they are a little less worried since I’m donating platelets and not whole blood. I get all of my blood cells back when I’m done. I’m not losing anything like I would with whole blood.

28lorelei's avatar

True, good point @seekingwolf. And kudos to you for all the donating… I would if I could (but I can’t, unfortunately).

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