A woman who would lose her vision if there was not enough male blood available to treat her condition is urging more men to donate.
Jo Daniels, 39, from Bristol, has the autoimmune disease Sjogren’s syndrome, which attacks her tear glands and leaves her with painful ulcers on her corneas.
She uses a daily eye serum, made from male blood, to keep her sight.
Only 41% of new blood donors in England last year were men.
The high level of iron present in male blood makes it especially helpful to patients who rely on regular life-saving transfusions.
Unlike men, women produce antibodies during pregnancy which makes their blood unviable for numerous specialist transfusions and blood-based products, such as complete blood transfusions in newborn babies.
‘In the dark’
Mrs Daniels’s life turned upside down when her sight began to deteriorate at an alarming rate.
She told BBC News: “My eyes were itchy for a while before my vision suddenly became blurry and painful.
“Over the course of four weeks, I went from seeing normally to being completely in the dark.
“To make matters worse, it came on over the Christmas period, so I couldn’t get help very quickly.
“I was worried I would lose my career and not be able to see my young daughter grow up.”
Numerous treatments failed to help Mrs Daniels and she became resigned to the fact she may never be able to regain her vision.
But then a last ditch attempt using serum made from the plasma of male blood donors gave her hope.
“I can only see now because men donate blood that is used to extract serum that people like me put in their eyes hourly.”
Mrs Daniels added: “If enough men do not donate, then this treatment will no longer be available to me and I will begin to lose my sight again.”
Sjogren’s syndrome affects parts of the body that produce fluids such as tears and spit.
It is most common among women aged 40 to 60 and there is currently no cure.
NHS Blood and Transplant (NHSBT) is aiming for a 26% increase in new male donors this year in a bid to help fix the widening gender imbalance.
For every 100 women who started giving blood in 2019, only 70 men did the same.
“We need more than 68,000 men to start donating blood this year,” said Mike Stredder, head of donor recruitment at NHSBT.
“Men’s blood can be used in extraordinary, lifesaving ways but we don’t have enough new male donors coming forward.
“This is not about recruiting as many donors as possible – it is about getting the right gender mix.”
- NHS Blood and Transplant needs 1.4 million units of blood each year to meet the needs of patients across England – more than 6,000 blood donations per day
- Some 135,000 new blood donors are needed each year to replace those who stop donating and to ensure the right mix of blood groups
- The number of men giving blood has dropped by 24.8% over the past five years in England, while the number of women giving blood has fallen by 6%
- More black donors are urgently needed to help treat the increasing number of patients with sickle-cell disease
Source: NHS Blood and Transplant