Vitamin K deficiency: ‘Excessive’ bleeding and blood in urine could be a sign

Dr Oscar Duke issues warning over ‘fizzy’ vitamins

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Most people would never have to consider our vitamin K intake. It is found naturally in a range of foods including green leafy vegetables, like broccoli, spinach, and lettuce, vegetable oils, some fruits, such as blueberries, as well as meat, cheese, eggs, and soybeans. However, those with chronic conditions and illnesses could struggle to absorb or store it in their bodies.

According to Lab Tests Online UK (LTO), vitamin K is “essential” for the formation of several substances “that work together to clot the blood when injuries to blood vessels occur”.

It explains: “Insufficient vitamin K can lead to excessive bleeding and easy bruising.

“Vitamin K is also thought to play an important role in the prevention of bone loss.

“A low concentration of vitamin K within the bloodstream has been associated with low bone density, and there is some evidence that adequate concentrations of vitamin K can improve bone health while reducing the risk of fractures.”

The most common causes of vitamin K deficiency are due to poor diet, the body failing to store it, and decreased storage due to liver disease – but it may also be caused by decreased production in the intestines.

It is also a common issue for newborn babies, and is known as vitamin K deficiency bleeding or VKDB.

“This can cause bleeding and bruising and, in severe cases, can lead to fatal bleeding into the brain,” LTO says.

“VKDB used to be a relatively common occurrence as newborns have small stores of vitamin K when they are born, their intestines do not yet have established normal flora, and breast milk does not provide them with much vitamin K.”


As a result the NHS offers vitamin K injections within the first 24 hours of birth.

Signs and symptoms associated with vitamin K deficiency can include:

  • Easy bruising
  • Oozing from nose or gums
  • Excessive bleeding from wounds, punctures, and injection or surgical sites
  • Heavy menstrual periods
  • Bleeding from the gastrointestinal (GI) tract
  • Blood in the urine and/or stool
  • Increased prothrombin time

LTO adds: “In haemorrhagic disease of the newborn, signs and symptoms may be similar to those listed above but, in more serious cases, may also involve bleeding within the skull (intracranial).”

Short-term treatment for vitamin K deficiency usually involves either tablets or injections.

“Long-term or lifetime supplementation may be necessary for those with underlying chronic conditions,” LTO says.

“The action of vitamin K typically requires two to five days after it is given to show treatment effect.”

However, vitamin K supplementation may not be effective in those with seriously damaged livers as clotting factors dependent on the vitamin are produced by the liver.

Those most at risk of developing a vitamin K deficiency are those who have a chronic condition associated with malnutrition or malabsorption and those who have been on long-term treatment with antibiotics.

Seriously ill patients such as cancer or dialysis patients or those in intensive care units, are also at risk.

The NHS advises that adults need approximately 1 microgram a day of vitamin K for each kilogram of their body weight.

“For example, someone who weighs 65kg would need 65 micrograms a day of vitamin K, while a person who weighs 75kg would need 75 micrograms a day,” it says.

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