Blood transfusions are fairly common in the United States. Each year approximately 5 million Americans need a blood transfusion.
Why Do Individuals Need Blood Transfusions?
There are many reasons an individual may require a blood transfusion, including surgery, illness or serious injury. Some of the more severe reasons to have a blood transfusion include chronic anemia or bleeding disorders. The following bleeding disorders are among the most common among individuals who require blood transfusions on a regular basis:
- Hemophilia. This is a hereditary condition that affects the blood’s ability to clot. If you have hemophilia, you may bleed for a longer time than others after an injury, thus requiring a blood transfusion. Individuals who suffer from hemophilia may also bleed internally, potentially damaging tissues and organs.
- Anemia. Anemia is a condition in which an individual has fewer red blood cells than normal and/or the amount of hemoglobin in the blood is below the normal level. Hemoglobin is the protein in blood that helps carry oxygen throughout the body. Individuals with severe or prolonged anemia may sustain damage to the heart, brain and lungs.
- Sickle Cell Anemia. A common part of Sickle Cell Disease, Sickle Cell Anemia is a condition in which the body produces crescent-shaped red blood cells that tend to block blood flow, and can potentially cause pain and organ damage. Blood transfusions are among the treatments that may be used to manage the disorder.
Blood Transfusions and the Gay/Bisexual Community
In the 1980s, thousands contracted AIDS from blood tainted with HIV from a blood transfusion. As a result, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) enforced a lifetime ban on gay and bisexual blood donations.
Despite pressure from gay rights groups, there continues to be a nationwide ban on blood donated by individuals who fit into this demographic. The FDA has said it will consider lifting the ban, “only if supported by scientific data showing that a change in the policy would not present a significant and preventable risk to blood recipients.”
Activists are arguing the policy is rendered obsolete by tests that can detect HIV within days of infection. The American Medical Association has voted to oppose the ban. In August 2013, 80 members of Congress wrote to the Department of Health stating that the lifetime ban is outdated and perpetuates inaccurate stereotypes about gay men.
Today, the US’s blood supply is remarkably safe. The FDA has the vital role of ensuring patients who receive a blood transfusion are protected by multiple overlapping safeguards, including donor screening, blood testing, quarantine and donor deferral lists.
Blood Disorders and Social Security Disability Benefits
Individuals who require blood transfusions for severe illnesses may qualify for Social Security disability benefits. There are several factors that may allow you to qualify for benefits due to your disorder:
1. If you have at least three blood transfusions within 5 months.
2. If you suffer from a blood disorder that keeps you from being able to maintain employment.
3. If you have debilitating symptoms as a result of your blood disorder.