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Vitamin K Deficiency

  • Author :
  • TATA AIG Team
  • Published on :
  • 29/12/2023
  • 2 min read

You may have heard of vitamin K as a nutrient that aids blood clotting and prevents excessive bleeding. But did you know vitamin K is vital in preserving bone health and preventing fractures? Vitamin K is a fat-soluble vitamin in two principal forms: K1 (phylloquinone) and K2 (menaquinone).

Green leafy veggies like spinach, kale, and broccoli contain Vitamin K1. Meanwhile, bacteria in your gut produce Vitamin K2, which is also present in specific animal and fermented foods, such as cheese, eggs, and natto.

Vitamin K deficiency is a rare but severe condition affecting adults and infants. It occurs when your body does not get enough vitamin K from your diet or cannot absorb or use it properly due to certain diseases or medications.

Today, we will discuss the causes, symptoms, diagnosis, treatment, and prevention of vitamin K deficiency and how to keep your blood and bones healthy.

Vitamin K Deficiency Symptoms

The primary sign of a vitamin K deficiency is excessive bleeding, which may manifest in various body areas, including the skin, nose, gums, stomach, or brain.

Bleeding can be triggered by minor injuries like cuts, bruises, or dental procedures or by more severe events such as surgery, trauma, or childbirth. Spontaneous occurrences can also happen without any evident cause.

Other signs of vitamin K deficiency include:

Bleeding under your nails or having blood spots on your skin

Having dark or bloody stools or blood in your urine

Having heavy menstrual periods or bleeding between periods

Having headaches, dizziness, or vision problems

Causes of Vitamin K Deficiency

The primary reason for vitamin K deficiency is the low consumption of foods rich in this vitamin. The National Institutes of Health (NIH) advises a daily intake of 90 micrograms (mcg) for women and 120 mcg for men.

However, many people do not meet this requirement, especially if they follow a restrictive diet, such as vegan, gluten-free, or low-fat.

Malabsorption disorders. This condition impairs your capacity to absorb nutrients from your meal. These include celiac disease, cystic fibrosis, biliary tract disorders, or intestinal surgery.

These disorders can damage your intestinal lining, reduce bile production, or alter your gut flora, essential for vitamin K absorption and production.

Certain medicines can obstruct vitamin K metabolism and function. These medications include antibiotics, anticoagulants, and high doses of vitamins A and E.

Antibiotics may eliminate beneficial gut bacteria that help in vitamin K2 production. Anticoagulants, like warfarin, interfere with vitamin K's action on blood clotting factors.

Liver disorders such as hepatitis, cirrhosis, or cancer may also cause a deficiency of this vitamin. These diseases can impair liver function, reduce vitamin K storage, or increase vitamin K breakdown.

Vitamin K Deficiency Diseases

Some of the most common diseases caused by deficiency of vitamin K are as follows:

Osteoporosis: Osteocalcin is a protein that helps form and preserve bone tissue. Vitamin K is essential for producing this protein. If you do not get enough vitamin K from your diet, your osteocalcin activity may decrease, making your bones more fragile and susceptible to fracturing.

Cardiovascular disease: This is a term for diseases that affect the heart and blood vessels. Calcium can accumulate in the arteries and make them stiff and narrow. This can raise blood pressure and cause problems such as stroke and heart attack. Vitamin K may help protect the arteries from calcium buildup.

Bleeding in the brain: This is a severe and life-threatening complication of vitamin K deficiency. It can occur in newborns who do not receive enough vitamin K from their mothers or supplements.

It can also occur in adults who have liver disease, malabsorption, or take certain medications that interfere with vitamin K. Bleeding in the brain can cause seizures, coma, and death.

Poor bone development: This is a problem that can affect children who have vitamin K deficiency. It can cause delayed growth, skeletal deformities, and increased fracture susceptibility.

Diagnosis and Treatment of Vitamin K Deficiency

You might want to learn about the treatment now that you have a vitamin K deficiency disease list. Your doctor may diagnose vitamin K deficiency by measuring the prothrombin time (PT) or the international normalised ratio (INR).

These vitamin K deficiency tests show your blood's clotting ability. A normal PT or INR is between 10 and 13.5 seconds, while a prolonged PT or INR is over 14 seconds. If your blood takes longer to clot, you are at risk of bleeding.

Vitamin K deficiency treatment varies based on the cause and severity. The primary goal is to restore normal clotting and stop bleeding. Options include:

Oral or intravenous vitamin K supplements quickly raise levels and correct clotting. Dosage and duration depend on age, weight, and bleeding severity. Adults with mild bleeding might need 2.5 to 5 mg of oral vitamin K once or twice daily, while infants with severe bleeding may require a single 10 mg intravenous dose.

Blood transfusions offer red blood cells, platelets, or plasma—essential components for clotting. Transfusions are reserved for severe bleeding or anaemia cases when vitamin K supplements alone cannot halt bleeding or restore blood volume.

Plasma infusions can provide you with clotting factors, which are the proteins activated by vitamin K and help your blood clot. Doctors reserve plasma infusions for cases of severe bleeding or liver disease when vitamin K supplements prove ineffective or are contraindicated.

It is worth mentioning that vitamin K supplements interact with a few medications, such as warfarin, and cause either increased or decreased clotting. They may also have side effects like allergic reactions, nausea, or diarrhoea.

Prevention of Vitamin K Deficiency

The best plan to avoid vitamin K deficiency is to adhere to a balanced diet that incorporates vitamin K-rich foods.

Food Vitamin K (in mcg)
Broccoli 85 mcg (½ cup; cooked)
Beef Liver 72 mcg (1 slice)
Asparagus 93 mcg (1 cup; boiled, drained)
Soybeans 43 mcg (½ cup; roasted)
Spinach 444.2 mcg (1/2 cup; cooked)
Egg Yolk 5.8 mcg (1 large egg yolk)
Strawberries 3.7 mcg (1 cup)


Vitamin K deficiency can be caused by inadequate dietary intake, malabsorption disorders, medication use, or certain diseases. Excessive bleeding can occur as a result, potentially resulting in anaemia, infection, or stroke.

Doctors can figure out if you lack Vitamin K by checking your prothrombin time or international normalised ratio. You can prevent this deficiency by sticking to a balanced diet that has vitamin K-rich foods.

Consuming essential vitamins is one way to care for your body, but you must also protect your health financially with a health insurance policy. By purchasing health insurance alongside critical illness insurance, you can get coverage for hospitalisation, life-threatening diseases, ICU, and ambulance services. With Tata AIG, you get a wide range of benefits of health insurance, which match your insurance needs.


What are the signs of vitamin K deficiency?

A lack of vitamin K can cause symptoms like bleeding problems, such as easy bruising, tiny red dots on the skin (petechiae), and skin, nose, or other bleeding in babies.

What is the source of vitamin K?

Vitamin K is classified into vitamin K1, abundant in green leafy vegetables, vegetable oils, and some fruits, and vitamin K2, present in animal foods and fermented foods and made by gut bacteria.

Why does a deficiency of vitamin K result in late blood clotting?

Blood clotting is delayed when vitamin K is deficient, as vitamin K is essential for activating several proteins that participate in the coagulation process. Without enough vitamin K, these proteins do not work well, and blood clotting is affected.

Which fruit is high in vitamin K?

Prunes, kiwi, avocados, blueberries, grapes, and figs are some of the fruits that contain a lot of vitamin K. However, fruits do not provide enough vitamin K, and other foods rich in vitamin K should also be eaten.

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