What Is Plasma and Why Is It Important?

What is Blood Plasma

The blood is made up of four components: red blood cells, white blood cells, and platelets. The fourth component is plasma, which makes up about 55 percent of the blood in the body. It is responsible for many vital functions in the body, including the transport of waste products and maintaining healthy blood pressure, blood volume, and pH levels.

But what is plasma, and what is plasma used for? We’ll delve into the importance of this component of the blood below.

What is Plasma?

Now, what is plasma? Plasma is a light amber-colored liquid component of blood. As its largest component, it makes up about 55 percent of the total blood volume in the body. Meanwhile, the plasma itself is made up of about 92 percent of water.

About seven percent of plasma is made up of vital proteins involved in numerous crucial functions in the blood, such as in the formation of blood clots, fighting infections, and the transport of different substances to and from the body. The remaining portion of the plasma is made up of sugars, fats, mineral salts, hormones, and vitamins.

What are the Functions of Plasma?

Plasma performs four main functions in the body. These include:

  • Maintaining healthy blood pressure and volume
  • Supplying critical proteins responsible for blood clotting and immunity
  • Carrying of electrolytes like potassium and sodium to the muscles
  • Maintaining a healthy pH balance in the body

What is Plasma Used For?

Plasma has a critical role to play in pharmaceuticals and healthcare, as it helps in the treatment of many serious health problems and helps patients recover more quickly. In the hospital sector, blood plasma is typically given to patients who have recently experienced trauma, burns, or shock. Patients with severe liver diseases or multiple clotting factor deficiencies are also given plasma as a way of helping them improve the volume of their blood as well as their blood’s ability to clot to facilitate healing. In the pharmaceutical industry, plasma can be used to make treatments for various diseases, including immune deficiencies and bleeding disorders.

How Does Plasma Keep You Healthy?

Plasma comprises several components that help it perform its many functions and keep the body healthy. Its water, salt, and enzymes help the body maintain normal function by controlling blood pressure and volume, while antibodies help our bodies fight infections to maintain a healthy body. 

It also contains clotting factors that help prevent excessive blood loss when you get a cut. Proteins like albumin and fibrinogen help in the delivery of various substances to different parts of the body and the removal of waste.

Plasma is also used as a major component in the treatment of different rare chronic conditions. Thanks to these treatments, many people today can live long, productive lives and can improve their quality of life. That’s why it is referred to by many health organizations today as the “gift of life.”

What is a Plasma Donation?

Traditional blood donations and plasma-only donations differ slightly in how blood is extracted from the donor. In a traditional blood donation, blood is extracted from the person’s arm and is fed directly to a collection bag, which will be kept for later use. Components can be extracted from the blood sample within a laboratory setting, or they can be transfused directly to a person in need of blood, such as a person recovering from surgery.

For plasma-only donations, blood is drawn from the person through the arm, which flows directly into a machine that contains a sterile, disposable kit. The machine isolates the plasma from the blood and is kept inside a special collection bag, while the other parts of the blood are returned to the person through the same needle. This process is called plasmapheresis.

A plasma-only donation usually takes longer than traditional blood donations to complete. But since extraction only involves plasma, a larger volume of plasma can be collected, and persons can donate more frequently. In fact, you only need to wait between 24 to 48 hours before you can donate blood plasma again, which means you can donate plasma multiple times a week, with at least a one-day interval between donations. The Red Cross only allows plasma donations once every 28 days, or up to 13 times a year.

Who Should Donate Plasma?

Plasma donations from people with type AB blood are strongly encouraged because of their unique qualities as the universal donor. As a universal donor, this type of plasma can be used on all recipients regardless of blood type. This is invaluable in emergency situations, such as when caring for burn victims or those who have suffered significant trauma. In such cases, plasma can be used immediately without having to worry about blood type incompatibilities, saving precious time and improving the patient’s likelihood of survival.

But before you can donate plasma and help other people who need access to your plasma, you will have to go through a screening process. This will help determine whether your blood is healthy and safe, while also confirming your state of health. 

Unfortunately, AB plasma is always in short supply because type AB blood is scarce in the US. If you have type AB blood, you are strongly encouraged to make a donation and help save lives. To see if you’re eligible, use this checklist for confirmation.

How to Stay Healthy and Donate Plasma

Donating blood plasma is a safe procedure that can help save countless lives with severe medical conditions. However, you also need to make sure that you stay healthy to make your donation go more smoothly. Here are a few ways to maintain your health and prepare for your visit.

Eat a healthy meal within two hours before and after donating blood to help you recover

It is important to eat a meal rich in iron to replenish the iron you lose when donating blood. Here are some examples of iron-rich foods you can eat:

  • Meats – beef, lamb, pork, veal, and venison
  • Poultry – chicken, turkey, and quail
  • Fish – tuna, mackerel, haddock, and sardines
  • Shellfish and other seafood – clams, oysters, and shrimps
  • Organs – liver, kidneys, and heart
  • Eggs
  • Vegetables – spinach, sweet potatoes, kale, broccoli, and string beans
  • Bread and cereals – enriched white bread, whole wheat bread, rye bread, and cornmeal
  • Fruits – strawberries, watermelon, prunes, and figs
  • Beans – tofu, garbanzo, lentils, white, and kidney beans

Keep yourself hydrated by drinking plenty of water or fruit juices

Blood plasma is mostly water, which means you end up losing a lot as you make your donation. But steer clear of alcoholic and caffeinated beverages because these can actually dehydrate you more.

Avoid smoking for at least a few hours after donating

Donating blood can make you feel lightheaded and dizzy, which can be amplified when you smoke and lead to a falling injury.

You should get a good night’s rest a day before donating blood

Otherwise, you may feel too lightheaded and dizzy after making a donation, causing you to faint.

Make A Difference: Donate Plasma Today

In emergency situations, your plasma donation can be the difference between life and death for patients in need. At ABO holdings, our trained team will take you through the seamless donation process. Become a donor today and make a positive impact in your community.