What Is Plasma?
Plasma is the often forgotten component of blood. White blood cells, red blood cells,
and platelets are essential to body function, but plasma also plays a crucial, and
mostly unrecognized, job. It carries these blood components throughout the body as
the fluid in which they travel.
Facts about plasma
Plasma is the largest component of your blood, making up about 55% of its overall
content. When isolated on its own, blood plasma is a light yellow liquid, similar
to the color of straw. Along with water, plasma carries salts and enzymes.
The primary purpose of plasma is to transport nutrients, hormones, and proteins to
the parts of the body that need it. Cells also deposit their waste products into the
plasma. The plasma, in turn, helps remove this waste from the body. Blood plasma also
ushers the movement of all the elements of blood through the circulatory system.
Plasma's importance to your health
Plasma is a critical component in the treatment of many serious health problems. This
is why there are frequent blood drives encouraging people to donate blood plasma.
Along with water, salt, and enzymes, human plasma also contains important components.
These include immunoglobulins (antibodies), clotting factors, and the proteins albumin
and fibrinogen. When you donate blood, health professionals can isolate these vital
ingredients from your plasma and concentrate them into various products. These products
are then used as treatments that can potentially help save the lives of people suffering
from burns, shock, trauma, and other medical emergencies.
The proteins and antibodies in plasma are also used to create therapies for rare chronic
conditions, such as autoimmune disorders and hemophilia. People with these conditions
can live long and productive lives because of these treatments. In fact, some health
organizations call plasma "the gift of life."
If you want to donate plasma to help others in need, you will go through a screening
process beforehand to make sure your blood is healthy and safe. If you qualify as
a plasma donor, you'll spend about an hour and a half at a clinic on every follow-up
During the actual blood donation process, your blood is drawn through a needle placed
in a vein in one arm. Then a special machine separates the plasma (and often the platelets)
from your blood sample. This process is called plasmapheresis. The remaining red blood
cells and other blood components are then returned to your body, along with a little
saline (salt) solution.
People with the blood type AB are in the greatest demand for plasma donation. Though
they make up just 4% of the population, their plasma is universal. This means it can
be used by anyone.
At noncommercial donation sites, people can donate plasma every 28 days, up to 13
times a year. To learn more about donating blood, visit the American Red Cross website.