Vitamin K deficiency

Vitamin K is one of the many vitamins our bodies need to function and grow properly. Each vitamin plays a different role, and all roles are important and essential. Vitamin K is a group of fat-soluble vitamins required for blood coagulation and other metabolic functions. Learn about the role of vitamin K, foods that contain it, and what happens when an individual becomes deficient in vitamin K.

What is Vitamin K?
As mentioned above, vitamin K is needed in small amounts for a variety of reasons. One of the main reasons is to be able to assist in the formation of several substances called coagulation factors; coagulation factors work together to clot the blood when injuries to blood vessels occur. Without vitamin K, our blood has difficulty clotting and, as a result, one can bleed and bruise easily. Vitamin K also helps to prevent bone loss and reduce the risk of fractures. There are three types of vitamin K important to the body: K1, K2, and K3.

Vitamin K1 comes from the foods we eat, like leafy green vegetables (kale, collards, turnip greens, spinach mustard greens, green leaf lettuce, broccoli, green onions, parsley, asparagus, Brussels sprouts, and cabbage), dairy products, vegetable oils, soybeans, and cereals. Vitamin K2 is made by the bacteria that normally inhabit the intestines. It is sort of a “supplement” to vitamin K1 because it cannot supply the required amount alone. Vitamin K3 is a synthetic water-soluble form of vitamin K that is only used for vitamin K deficiency treatment in adults.

Deficiency of Vitamin K
Vitamin K deficiency is rare in healthy individuals, but it can happen in those and also in individuals who have underlying problems. It is seen in patients who are admitted to intensive care units, cancer patients, chemotherapy patients, chronic dialysis patients, and those at risk of malnutrition (for example, because of substance abuse).

The main causes of a vitamin K deficiency are because of insufficient dietary intake, inadequate absorption, poor production in the intestines, and decreased storage of the vitamin due to liver disease or damage. Since vitamin K is a fat-soluble vitamin, poor absorption of fats can lead to poor vitamin K absorption. A liver disease, such as a bile obstruction or cirrhosis, can lead to poor absorption of vitamin K. Certain medications—antibiotics, aspirin, and anti-seizure medications—can interfere with vitamin K absorption, decrease the amount produced in the intestines, and increase the body’s requirement for vitamin K.

Signs and symptoms associated with vitamin K deficiency include easy bruising; oozing from the nose or gums; excessive bleeding from wounds, punctures, injections, and surgical sites; heavy menstrual periods; bleeding from the gastrointestinal tract; blood in the urine and/or stool; heavy menstrual bleeding; and an increased prothrombin time (prothrombin is a coagulation factor).

There are two different types of treatment for vitamin K deficiency: short-term and long-term. Short-term treatment involves oral supplementation or injections. Long-term supplementation may be necessary in those with underlying chronic medical conditions. Vitamin K3 is only used to treat vitamin K deficiency in adults because it can cause hemolytic anemia in infants and young children. Supplementation with vitamin K may not be effective in those with serious liver damage.

Intakes of Vitamin K
Infants 0-6 months    2.0 mcg
Infants 7-12 months    2.5 mcg
Children 1-3 years    30 mcg
Children 4-8 years    55 mcg
Children 9-13 years    60 mcg
Adolescents 14-18 years    75 mcg
Adults 19 and older    120 mcg for males, 90 mcg for females

Pregnant and Breastfeeding women
(18 and younger)    75 mcg
Pregnant and Breastfeeding women
(19 and older)    90 mcg

Last updated on Dec 10th, 2010 and filed under Vitamins and Minerals. Both comments and pings are currently closed.

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