There are two major types of vitamin K. Vitamin K1 (phylloquinone) is derived from plants, especially green leafy vegetables such as spinach and kale. Vitamin K2 (menaquinone) is naturally produced in the gut and acts similarly to K1. Vitamin K plays an important role in circulation, better known as blood clotting. Closing the process helps to prevent excessive bleeding inside and outside the body.
Your body needs vitamin K to produce a protein that goes to work during the detoxification process. When you lack vitamin K, your body does not have these proteins. The telltale sign of vitamin K deficiency is severe bleeding. Scientists also believe that vitamin K helps the bones to grow and stay healthy, but they are still studying that relationship.
Vitamin K deficiency is uncommon in adults because most of the food we eat contains a sufficient amount of K1, and because the body makes K2 alone. Also, the body is ready to reuse the existing vitamin K., however, certain conditions and other medications can interfere with the absorption and formation of vitamin K, causing the deficiency.
Vitamin K deficiency is very common in children. In infants, this condition is called VKDB, due to a deficiency of vitamin K.
Symptoms of Vitamin K Deficiency
A major sign of vitamin K deficiency is excessive bleeding. Keep in mind that bleeding can occur in areas other than the site of the cut or wound.
Bleeding can also be detected if someone:
- bruises easily
- gets small blood clots underneath their nails
- bleeds in mucous membranes that line areas inside the body
- produces stool that looks dark black (almost like tar) and contains some blood
In children, doctors can detect vitamin K deficiency if:
- bleeding from the area where the umbilical cord is removed
- bleeding in the skin, nose, gastrointestinal tract, or other areas
- bleeding at the penis if the baby has been circumcised
- sudden bleeding in the brain, which is extremely dangerous and life-threatening
Vitamin K Deficiency Causes
Although vitamin K deficiency is uncommon in adults, some individuals are at high risk if:
- take coumarin anticoagulants such as warfarin, which reduce blood pressure
- they take antibiotics
- has a history of fat malabsorption.
- have a severe deficiency of vitamin K
Coumarin anticoagulants inhibit the production of proteins involved in blood clotting. Some antibiotics cause the body to produce less vitamin K. Some antibiotics can cause vitamin K deficiency.
Fat malabsorption leading to vitamin K deficiency is possible in four people:
- celiac disease
- cystic fibrosis
- disorders of the gut or biliary tract (liver, gallbladder, and bile ducts)
- part of their intestines are removed
Newborn babies are at greater risk for vitamin K deficiency for a variety of reasons:
- breast milk contains very little vitamin K
- Vitamin K does not transfer properly from the mother’s placenta to her baby
- the liver of a newborn baby does not use vitamins properly
- newborns do not produce vitamin K2 alone in the first few days of life
Diagnosis of vitamin K deficiency
First, your doctor will need to know your medical history to determine if you are at risk for vitamin K deficiency.
People at risk are usually:
- take anticoagulants
- to take antibiotics
- you have a problem where fat absorption is a problem
Your doctor will probably do a coagulation test called a prothrombin time (PT) test to see if vitamin K deficiency is causing your symptoms. This is a blood test that measures how long it takes for your blood to stop.
A nurse, laboratory technician, or other health professional trained to draw blood will take a sample using a small needle. They will then add chemicals to the sample to see how it reacts. The blood usually takes 11 to 13.5 seconds to thicken. If the blood takes too long to cover, your doctor may decide that you do not have vitamin K.
The lab can also view the results differently, measuring the international normalized ratio (INR). The INR is based on a scale that compares the results of various laboratories around the world. The standard INR is about 0.9 to 1.1. In a person taking a thinner blood thinner, it can be about 2 to 3.5. Your doctor will be watching to see if the number is too high.
Vitamin K Deficiency Treatment
Vitamin K treatment is phytonadione, which is vitamin K1. Doctors often prescribe oral medication. The doctor or nurse can also inject it under the skin (unlike the vein or muscles). The dose for adults ranges from 1 to 25 milligrams (mg).
Doctors will give a small dose of phytonadione to someone taking an anticoagulant. Usually, this dose is about 1 to 10 mg. This prevents the problem because of anticoagulants that interfere with the body’s production of vitamin K in the body.
For infants, the American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that newborns receive a single dose of 0.5 to 1 mg of vitamin K1 at birth. High doses may be required if the mother is taking anticoagulants or anti-seizure medication.
A long-term view of vitamin K deficiency
If left untreated in adults, vitamin K deficiency can lead to excessive bleeding and be fatal. But in almost all cases, vitamin K deficiency is treatable.
For children where VKDB is diagnosed and treated quickly, the vision is positive. However, if the bleeding, known as intracranial hemorrhage, lasts too long or is not treated, brain injury or death may occur.
How to prevent vitamin K deficiency
There is no set amount of vitamin K you should use each day. But in the middle of the day, nutritionists consider 120 mcg for men and 90 mcg for women. Some foods, including raw vegetables, are very high in vitamin K and will give you everything you need for a single serving. A single shot of vitamin K at birth can prevent newborn problems.
People with fatty malabsorption conditional conditions should talk to their doctor about taking vitamin K supplements and monitoring their levels. The same is true for people taking warfarin and similar anticoagulants.
What disease is caused by lack of vitamin K?
Vitamin K deficiency bleeding (VKDB) is a bleeding problem that occurs in some newborns during the first few days of life. VKDB was previously called hemorrhagic disease of the newborn.
What is vitamin K deficiency most likely to result from?
A vitamin K deficiency can occur in people of any age, but newborn infants are particularly at risk. Vitamin K deficiency is most likely to result from a lack of vitamin K reaching the fetus before birth and the lack of vitamin K in breast milk. Other risk factors for a vitamin K deficiency include Liver disease.