Vitamin K Deficiency: A Risk for Atherosclerosis and Osteoporosis, Visible Signs on the Skin

Vitamin K Deficiency: A Risk for Atherosclerosis and Osteoporosis, Visible Signs on the Skin

Vitamin K is a fat-soluble vitamin that plays a crucial role in the production of clotting factors in liver cells. Imbalances in its level within the body can lead to symptoms and sometimes even permanent complications. Let's understand how vitamin K deficiency and excess affect the body.

Vitamin K Deficiency - How Common Is It?

It's estimated that vitamin K deficiency is detected in 8-31% of the general population. Despite its frequent occurrence, a full-blown syndrome associated with this deficiency is rare. With prompt diagnosis and treatment, complete recovery is possible without lasting complications.

Causes of Vitamin K Deficiency

The causes of vitamin K deficiency can vary. The most common include insufficient dietary intake of the vitamin. Deficiency may also occur in conditions such as:

  • Celiac disease, cystic fibrosis, or pancreatic diseases that impair digestion or nutrient absorption.
  • Post stomach-reducing surgery or intestinal resection.
  • Prolonged use of antibiotics, altering gut flora involved in vitamin K synthesis.
  • Liver diseases.
  • Taking certain medications, like anticoagulants.

In newborns, causes may include the use of certain drugs during pregnancy by the mother or low vitamin K levels in the mother's body. There's also a genetically inherited condition that predisposes to vitamin K deficiencies.

Symptoms of Vitamin K Deficiency

The main symptoms are numerous bleedings and prolonged clotting time due to a deficiency of prothrombin and clotting factors II, VII, IX, and X. Bleedings, such as from venipuncture sites, and frequent skin hemorrhages, are common. A warning sign is the appearance of bruises even after minor or micro-traumas.

Particularly dangerous is vitamin K deficiency in newborns. It can contribute to serious, life-threatening bleeding in the skull, chest, or abdominal cavity. It can also cause diarrhea, vomiting, dehydration, prolonged jaundice, and poor weight gain in infants.

Treating Vitamin K Deficiency

Treatment for dietary-caused deficiency involves supplementing with dietary supplements. If the cause is other medical conditions, stabilizing the patient's condition and inducing remission is crucial before supplementation. Subsequently, vitamin K is often administered, sometimes in higher than standard doses, especially for patients with conditions impairing nutrient absorption.

Avoiding Vitamin K Deficiency

Currently, prophylactic vitamin K supplementation is not recommended for adults with normal blood levels. Only newborns receive prophylactic doses of vitamin K, typically 0.5 to 1 mg intramuscularly within an hour of birth. This dose may be repeated between the 4th and 6th day of life and then after 4-6 weeks.

Results of Treatment

Early detection and treatment of vitamin K deficiency usually leave no long-term complications. In patients with multiple coexisting illnesses, treatment duration may extend due to absorption disorders or poor appetite.

Complications of Vitamin K Deficiency

In severe deficiencies, life-threatening bleeding into the brain or abdominal cavity, impaired bone mineralization, and osteoporosis can occur. Studies have also shown that prolonged deficiency of this vitamin promotes the development of atherosclerosis and cardiovascular diseases.

Vitamin K Excess - What Are the Risks?

Overdosing on vitamin K is virtually impossible, even with doses far exceeding the recommended daily intake. However, its precursor, menadion, is toxic and should not be used to supplement this vitamin. It is used in animal feed, so accidental consumption in individuals involved in animal farming could lead to poisoning. The toxicity of menadion stems from its damaging effect on liver cells, increasing lipid oxidation in cell membranes leading to cell death. Symptoms of poisoning are mainly liver damage symptoms, including jaundice, hyperbilirubinemia, and hemolytic anemia.

Sources: Eden R.E., Daley S.F., Coviello J.M., Vitamin K Deficiency., September 8, 2023, accessed December 16, 2023. Imbrescia K., Zbigniew Moszczynski, Vitamin K,, July 10, 2023, accessed December 16, 2023.

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