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Vitamin K Deficiency: Causes, Symptoms, Diagnosis, Treatment And Prevention

If the body is devoid of essential vitamins and minerals, you tend to suffer from a serious illness or disease. One such vitamin deficiency that we are discussing in this article is vitamin K deficiency.

Vitamin K comes in two forms - vitamin K1 and vitamin K2, both these vitamins produce proteins that help in the clotting of the blood. Blood clotting is necessary to prevent excess bleeding both internally and externally. If the body doesn't get enough vitamin K from foods to produce enough of these proteins, it increases the risk of excessive bleeding.

An adequate amount of vitamin K can be obtained from foods that you eat as a part of your healthy diet. Lack of vitamin K rich foods leads to vitamin K deficiency. Though it is rare in adults, there are certain people who are at risk of vitamin K deficiency.

Read on to know what causes vitamin K deficiency, its symptoms and how to treat it.


What Causes Vitamin K Deficiency

Vitamin K deficiency occurs due to the following reasons: [1]

  • When your diet lacks in vitamin K rich foods.
  • A condition where your body isn't able to absorb fat properly known as fat malabsorption.
  • If you are taking coumarin anticoagulants such as warfarin, a blood-thinning medication.
  • If you are on antibiotics
  • Taking high doses of vitamin A and vitamin E

Newborn babies are also at a higher risk of getting vitamin K deficiency due to the following reasons:

  • Breast milk which is low in vitamin K
  • Vitamin K isn't transported from a mother's placenta to her baby.
  • A newborn baby's gut cannot produce vitamin K 2 in the first few days of life.
  • The baby's liver is unable to utilize vitamin K efficiently.

Symptoms Of Vitamin K Deficiency

The most obvious symptom of vitamin K is excessive bleeding when you have a cut or a wound. The other symptoms are:

  • Getting bruised easily
  • Stool that is dark-black in colour and contains some blood
  • Bleeding in mucous membranes that line the areas of the body.
  • Blood clots under the nails.
  • Bleeding from the nose or gums
  • Heavy menstrual periods
  • Bleeding from the gastrointestinal tract

The signs and symptoms of vitamin K deficiency in newborn babies and infants are:

  • Bleeding from the penis if the baby has been circumcised
  • Bleeding from the nose, in the skin, gastrointestinal tract and other areas.
  • Bleeding from the area where the umbilical cord has been cut.
  • Sudden bleeding in the brain, which is potentially life-threatening.

Risk Factors Of Vitamin K Deficiency

  • Premature babies
  • Mothers who take anticoagulants, anti-seizure drugs and medications for tuberculosis.
  • Babies who have fat malabsorption because of liver or gastrointestinal disease.

Diagnosis Of Vitamin K

To diagnose vitamin K deficiency, your doctor will ask about your medical history. After which, the doctor will perform a coagulation test called the prothrombin time (PT) test to check if vitamin K deficiency is causing the symptoms. This is a blood test that measures how long time does it take for the blood to clot.

Usually, the blood takes about 11 to 13.5 seconds to clot. But, if the blood takes longer than 13.5 seconds to clot, then it is a sign of vitamin K deficiency.


Treatment Of Vitamin K Deficiency

Vitamin K deficiency is treated with a drug called phytonadione, a vitamin K1 supplement that is taken orally. A doctor can also inject the medication under the skin.

How To Prevent Vitamin K Deficiency

Consume foods rich in vitamin K such as green leafy vegetables. For newborn babies, a single shot of vitamin K can prevent the risk of vitamin k deficiency.

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