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Vitamin K Deficiency - Causes, Symptoms, Diagnosis, and Treatment

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Vitamin K Deficiency - Causes, Symptoms, Diagnosis, and Treatment

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Vitamin K is essential for blood clotting and wound healing. Read this article to know more about vitamin K.

Written by

Dr. Lochana .k

Medically reviewed by

Dr. Mohammad Saquib Alam

Published At March 8, 2022
Reviewed AtDecember 19, 2022

What Is Vitamin K?

Vitamin K is a component that exists in two primary forms. They are,

  • Vitamin K1, called phylloquinone.

  • Vitamin K2, called menaquinone.

Vitamin K plays a vital role in the clotting of the blood. Blood clotting is the process required to stop excessive bleeding of the blood. If your body is deficient in vitamin K, your blood will not clot after any accident or injury. Excessive blood loss will invite additional complications. So, vitamin K is closely associated with emergencies. Rather than supplementing vitamin K at the last moment, it is advised to maintain an ideal level of vitamin K all the time for a healthy lifestyle. However, vitamin K deficiency is a rare condition because most foods contain vitamin K.

The daily recommendation of vitamin K is,

  • 120 mcg in males.

  • 90 mcg in females.

What Are the Causes of Vitamin K Deficiency?

The following are the causes of vitamin K deficiency.

  • Taking medications like antibiotics. Antibiotics are known to interfere with the clotting mechanism of the blood.

  • Fat malabsorption syndrome. It is a condition where there is poor absorption of fat in the body.

  • A diet that is deficient in vitamin K.

  • Anticoagulant drugs like Warfarin. These drugs cause thinning of the blood and will prevent blood clotting.

  • High levels of vitamin A and vitamin E.

  • Cystic fibrosis. It is a lung disease that develops as a hereditary condition. The normal lifespan of these patients is affected.

  • Celiac diseases. It is an immune disorder in which the small intestine is damaged.

What Are the Symptoms of Vitamin K Deficiency?

The most significant symptom of vitamin K deficiency is bleeding from wounds that would fail to clot. The other symptoms of vitamin K deficiency are:

  • Formation of tiny blood clots under the nails.

  • A black tarry stool that might be accompanied by blood.

  • Bleeding of the oral mucosa and certain internal organs.

  • The tendency to bruise easily.

What Are the Advantages of Vitamin K?

The following are the advantages of vitamin K:

  • Vitamin K helps in the building of bones. It will prevent bone loss due to steroids and conditions like osteoporosis. In osteoporosis, the bones become very thin.

  • It helps in maintaining a good texture of hair and healthy strands.

What Are the Rich Sources of Vitamin K?

The foods that are rich in vitamin K are:

  • Cabbage, cauliflower, broccoli, and green leafy vegetables like spinach, lettuce, etc.

  • Sprouts are rich in vitamin K.

  • Fruits like an apple, green apple, avocado, kiwi, grapes, and green pears.

  • Soybeans.

  • Pumpkin.

  • Carrot and pomegranate juice.

  • Meat, fish, liver, and egg.

  • Cereals.

  • Cooked kale.

  • Cucumber and lady's finger.

  • Cheese.

The daily requirement of vitamin K might vary depending upon the age and health condition.

  • Babies less than one year require only 2 - 2.5 mcg per day.

  • Children who are less than three years of age require 13 mcg per day.

  • Children aged around four to eight years require 55 mcg per day.

  • Children belonging to the age group nine to thirteen years require 60 mcg daily.

  • During the teenage years, the requirements of boys and girls will vary. It is around 85 mcg for boys and 75 mcg for girls every day.

  • Pregnant women require a range of 75 mcg to 80 mcg daily.

  • Men who are more than 20 years of age need 120 mcg per day.

  • Women who are more than 20 years of age need 90 mcg per day.

Who Is at Risk of Vitamin K Deficiency?

  • Newborn babies are at increased risk. This is because the mother's breast milk might be low in vitamin K. It is not possible for vitamin K to transfer from the mother's placenta to the fetus fully. It might also be due to the inability of the liver of the baby. In general, the gut of adults is known to produce vitamin K. In babies, the gut is not able to produce vitamins during the initial stages of life.

  • Patients with bleeding disorders like hemophilia, Von Willebrand disease, and disseminated intravascular coagulation.

  • People with sickle cell anemia.

  • Patients with kidney problems.

  • Liver disorders - Patients who are having liver problems have an increased tendency to bleed. The bleeding caused due to liver problems becomes hard to treat.

How Is Vitamin K Deficiency Diagnosed?

The deficiency of vitamin K requires a few laboratory tests for diagnosis. The doctor might recommend the following tests:

  • Prothrombin Time Test - The prothrombin time test helps in identifying the time taken by the plasma in the blood to clot. Prothrombin is a component that is involved in the process of blood clotting. Blood is collected from the patients and processed through certain laboratory procedures. Results can be obtained instantly. The normal time taken by the blood plasma to clot is around 11 to 13 seconds. Any delay in these levels might be noted as vitamin K deficiency.

  • Coagulation Test - The coagulation test is useful for the identification of the clotting ability of the blood. This helps in assessing the risk of many severe health conditions.

How Is Vitamin K Deficiency Treated?

Vitamin K deficiency can be treated by dietary supplementation with foods that are rich in vitamin K. Vitamin K can be supplied instantly with the help of injections. The uses of vitamin K injections are:

  • It will suddenly stop the bleeding at the injured site by increasing the thickness of the blood.

  • Reduced levels of risk of bleeding disorders.

The following are the side effects of vitamin K injection. They are:

  • The injection site might cause swelling, pain, and soreness.

  • Changes in taste.

  • Shortness of breath.

  • Bluish discoloration of the nails, skin, and lips.

  • Excessive sweating.

  • Increased heart rate.

  • Flushing.

  • Dizziness.

  • Allergic reaction.

If these symptoms continue, it is necessary to visit your doctor as soon as possible to prevent further complications.

For more help, contact iCliniq.com.

Frequently Asked Questions


Why Does Vitamin K Deficiency Happen?

Vitamin K is a fat-soluble vitamin. Vitamin K deficiency is rare in adults as our regular diet contains an adequate amount of these nutrients. Our body also recycles the existing supply of vitamin K. However, certain conditions and some drugs can interfere with vitamin K absorption. It is also common in infants.
Some of the causes of vitamin K deficiency include-
- Taking coumarin anticoagulants such as Warfarin.
- Taking anticoagulants.
- Fat malabsorption.
- Malnutrition and intake of a diet lacking in vitamin K.


How to Increase Vitamin K Intake?

The best way to increase vitamin K intake is to eat food sources rich in vitamin K. Vitamin K1 (phylloquinone) is obtained from plants, especially green leafy vegetables and spinach. Vitamin K2 is of bacterial origin and is present in modest amounts in various animal-based and fermented foods. The bacteria naturally produce them in the gut.


What Are the Risk Factors for Vitamin K Deficiency?

Vitamin K deficiency can occur in the first few weeks after birth due to low placental transfer of phylloquinone, low clotting factor levels, and low vitamin K content of breast milk. It is rare in adults and is usually limited to people with malabsorption disorders. People who are at risk for vitamin K deficiency include-
- Newborns cannot use vitamin K efficiently and cannot produce vitamin K efficiently. Therefore, when not treated with vitamin K at birth, such babies have a deficiency.
- People with malabsorption disorders such as cystic fibrosis, celiac disease, ulcerative colitis, etc.
- Vitamin K can also be low in patients who have undergone bariatric surgery.
- Antibiotics can reduce the vitamin K-producing bacteria in the gut and eventually decrease vitamin K status.
- Certain medications like Warfarin, bile acid sequestrants (drugs used to reduce cholesterol level), Orlistat (weight loss drug).


Which Fruits and Vegetables Are Rich in Vitamin K?

Vitamin K is found in vegetables, especially green leafy vegetables, vegetable oils, and some fruits. They include kale, mustard greens, Brussels sprouts, prunes, kiwi, avocado, spinach, parsley (fresh), cabbage, broccoli, beans, peas, lentils, iceberg lettuce, soybean, nuts, blackberries, blueberries, pomegranate, figs, pumpkin, tomatoes, grapes, red currants, and canola oil.


What Happens if You Have Excess Vitamin K?

Vitamin K toxicity is extremely rare, and no toxic dose is noted in the literature. But patients should not take excessive amounts of vitamin K. It can cause jaundice in newborns, hemolytic anemia, and hyperbilirubinemia. In addition, it can block the effect of oral anticoagulants.


Do Eggs Have High Vitamin K?

Eggs contain a fairly good source of vitamin K, and their vitamin content depends on the animal’s diet, and values vary depending on the region and the producer.


What Is the Treatment for Vitamin K Deficiency?

Vitamin K deficiency can be treated using supplements and injections. Dark leafy vegetables are a natural source of vitamin K, and they are advised to be included in the diet. In newborns, a vitamin K shot is administered at birth and especially when the baby has the following conditions, which include-
- Premature delivery.
- Maternal use of antiseizure drugs, anticoagulants, or drugs for tuberculosis.
- Babies who have fat malabsorption.


Which Vitamins Are Responsible for a Blood Clot?

Vitamin K is a group of vitamins the body needs for blood clotting, and it also helps in wound healing. In addition, vitamin K is responsible for preventing bleeding and bone formation. Beyond blood and bone hemostasis, they are involved in various processes such as inflammation, testosterone production, cancer progression, neuroprotective effect, bile acid metabolism, insulin secretion, and type 2 diabetes.


What Is the Role of Vitamin K in the Liver?

Vitamin K is a fat-soluble vitamin, and it is stored in the fat tissue and liver. They participate in the synthesis of several proteins that mediate coagulation. In addition, the liver synthesizes bile acids, and it plays a critical role in lipid absorption. Therefore, vitamin K requires proper lipid absorption for its own absorption. Liver disease that causes decreased bile salt synthesis leads to impaired vitamin K absorption and deficiency.


Will Vitamin K Raise Blood Pressure and Cause Stroke?

Increased intake of vitamin K can decrease the effectiveness of Warfarin and result in the formation of blood clots, which can increase the risk of heart attacks, strokes, and pulmonary embolism. It is also seen that high levels of dietary intake or genetic predisposition might increase the risk of cardiovascular disease. But sufficient vitamin K intake in the diet may protect against atherosclerotic cardiovascular disease events.


What Should You Avoid While Taking Vitamin K?

Many drugs can interfere with the effects of vitamin K like antacids, blood thinners, antibiotics like cephalosporins, Aspirin, and drugs used for cancer, seizure, high cholesterol, and other conditions. Therefore, it is advised to consult your physician before taking any supplements or medicines.
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Dr. Mohammad Saquib Alam
Dr. Mohammad Saquib Alam

General Practitioner


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