4 Vitamin K Deficiency Diseases And Health Problems To Watch Out For

Vitamin K deficiency leads to poor blood clotting and heavy periods.

Vitamin K is a nutrient abundant in the average diet in the United States and developed world. For most people, getting adequate vitamin K isn’t a problem since it is available in commonly consumed foods like green leafy vegetables, cruciferous vegetables like cabbage and broccoli, scallions, prunes, chicken, and herbs like parsley. However, if you fall short, you run the risk of not having enough of the nutrient to aid vital functions like blood clotting or to keep up bone health. Here’s a look at the downside of ignoring the need for the nutrient. Newborn babies and infants are especially prone, so this isn’t something you should ignore if you have a baby on the way. Even among adults, some factors might make your body susceptible to the deficiency, so this is worth your time too!

Your body needs 120 mcg a day if you are male and 90 mcg per day if you are female.1 And when you don’t get “adequate intake” or AI levels from your diet or supplements, you may start to show symptoms of a vitamin K deficiency (VKD). The list that follows covers these diseases/complications as well as symptoms that manifest due to inadequate vitamin K in the body. While not strictly “diseases,” the symptoms need to be understood well too. They are no less painful or uncomfortable than a disease and will need treatment.


1. Blood Clotting Problems

When the body is unable to produce adequate amounts of the clotting factor prothrombin due to inadequate intake of vitamin K, it can lead to bleeding or even hemorrhage in severe cases. Besides this, there are other signs that you have a blood clotting issue:2

  • Bruising easily
  • Excessive bleeding when you have an injury, wound, or punctured skin
  • Bleeding excessively from the site of an injection
  • Bleeding excessively from the site of surgery
  • Gastrointestinal (GI) tract bleeding
  • Blood in the urine
  • Blood in the stool
  • Heavy menstrual periods
  • Nosebleeds
  • Bleeding gums

It is important to note that some of these symptoms may have other causes besides a VKD, so always have them checked out by a doctor. For instance, your bleeding gums may be due to inadequate vitamin K or other causes like hormonal changes or an infection.3


2. Heavy Menstrual Periods And Anemia

A VKD might also make you prone to heavier menstrual periods than normal.4 When it comes to menorrhagia or heavy bleeding during periods, VKD needs to be considered as a possible underlying problem, failing which a woman may undergo multiple failed treatments or even surgery with no respite.5 This prolonged bleeding could eventually result in anemia.6 In fact, the National Institutes of Health list heavy menstrual periods among the many possible factors that could lead to someone developing anemia.7

3. Vitamin K Deficiency Bleeding (VKDB) In Babies

Known earlier as hemorrhagic disease of the newborn, this condition affects very small babies, shortly after birth. VKDB is the result of the low vitamin K levels or VKD in newborns which may present a problem in a small percentage of babies. Here are some scenarios in which babies develop the problem:8

  • If the baby does not get a preventive injection of vitamin K when they’re born
  • When the baby is exclusively breastfed – breast milk may not contain adequate vitamin K when compared to cow’s milk-based formula, and while this is no reason to stop breastfeeding, it is a deficiency you must be on the lookout for
  • If the baby’s mother takes anticoagulants to treat their own clotting disorder
  • If the baby’s mother takes anticonvulsants to treat a seizure

Symptoms of your baby having this problem may include one or more of the following:

  • Presence of blood in the bowel movement
  • Blood in the urine
  • Oozing in the area surrounding the umbilical cord

This condition may develop as early onset VKDB within the first 24 hours after birth (though this is rare); classic onset VKDB 1 to 7 days after birth; or late onset VKDB in infants between 2 weeks and 2 months.9  Once diagnosed, doctors will decide on a course of treatment which may include a blood transfusion for instances where the bleeding is very severe.10


4. Poor Bone Health

Vitamin K may be linked to bone health in the body and could even prevent bone loss. Consequently, not getting enough has been linked to low bone density and problems like osteopenia and osteoporosis. There are indications that by maintaining adequate levels of the nutrient in the body you should see an improvement in bone health and could even lower your risk of having a fracture.11

Some Adults May Be At Higher Risk Of A Vitamin K Deficiency

In general, VKD is not common among normal healthy adults. However, certain factors might put you at risk of the condition. You may be more prone to VKD if you:12

  • Are undergoing major surgery
  • Have been given broad-spectrum antibiotic therapy for a prolonged period
  • Have been given parenteral nutrition, fed intravenously, for a prolonged period
  • Have consumed extremely high doses of vitamin A and E
  • Are taking anticoagulants
  • Are bulimic
  • Are on a stringent diet

Besides this, some adults may have an inherited enzyme deficiency that interferes with vitamin K metabolism. But this is a very rare disorder and affects a handful of people worldwide. If any of the above applies to you, you should consult your doctor about a regimen and diet that can help you boost vitamin K intake. If your symptoms are severe, they could be life-threatening. So do consult a trained medical practitioner for the right course of treatment.