Can People with MS Donate Blood, Marrow, or Plasma?

Medically Reviewed by Christopher Melinosky, MD on March 06, 2024
3 min read

You may want to donate blood products like plasma or marrow to help people in need. Can you still be a donor if you have multiple sclerosis?

In the past, people with MS couldn’t donate at American Red Cross blood drives or banks. That’s because doctors weren’t sure if you could pass MS to another person through your blood.

But there’s no evidence that MS is contagious. People with the disease have been able to give blood in the U.S since 2007. If you’re healthy, on treatment, and your MS is under control, you should be able to donate at the American Red Cross.

You’ll have to be at least 17, weigh at least 110 pounds, and feel well, just like any other blood donor. In some other countries, like the United Kingdom, people with MS still can’t donate blood. That’s because the cause is still unknown.

Blood plasma donations come from your whole blood. You’ll have to go to a special clinic or center to make one.

Doctors use donated plasma to treat some chronic diseases. Some centers will pay you for the donation.

Giving plasma takes longer than a regular blood donation. It’s about an hour and 15 minutes. You’ll lie back while you’re hooked up to a machine that takes your blood, separates the plasma, and then puts the other parts of your blood and some saline, or salty solution, back into your body.

The American Red Cross allows you to donate blood or blood plasma if you have MS. But that’s only been true since 2007. Before that, people with MS and other autoimmune diseases couldn’t give either. Every blood donation center can set its own rules on who’s allowed to donate. So some centers may say no if you have MS.

In other countries, like the United Kingdom and Canada, people with MS can’t give whole blood, blood plasma, or bone marrow. Why? One reason is that the cause of MS is still unknown. There’s some worry that your blood plasma may contain something that could trigger the disease in the person who gets it.

At American Red Cross centers, you can donate blood plasma as long as your MS is well-controlled and you feel good in general. You’ll still have to meet the other requirements to donate, such as age or weight.

Some blood donation centers in the U.S. still won’t allow people with MS to give blood or plasma. It’s a good idea to call ahead and ask if you can donate.

Donated bone marrow helps doctors treat severe diseases like leukemia or lymphoma.

Bone marrow cells can help people fight tumors and even save their lives.

But even if your MS is being treated you still can’t donate bone marrow or stem cells. They might contain cells that could hurt the person who gets them.

Potential donors often get granulocyte colony stimulating factor (G-CSF) to help collect the cells from the marrow. But G-CSF could cause a reaction if you have MS. So you could put your own health at risk, too.

One new study shows that certain proteins in the blood of donors with MS can cross the blood-brain barrier. That means they could enter the brain of the person who gets your donated blood or blood plasma.

When you donate plasma or whole blood, you also lose iron. People with low iron may not be allowed to donate. Low blood iron levels and fatigue are symptoms of MS. Some people have been diagnosed with MS after regular blood donations.

So it may not be a good idea for you to give blood plasma often. It’s a great help to others, but not if it puts your health at risk.