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Vitamin K Deficiency

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General Information

DEFINITION – Inadequate or absent vitamin K, a fat-soluble vitamin necessary for proper blood clotting. Some vitamin K is produced in the gastrointestinal tract.

BODY PARTS INVOLVED – Liver; blood.

SEX OR AGE MOST AFFECTED – Both sexes; all ages. A newborn infant lacks vitamin K until its body begins to produce it.

SIGNS & SYMPTOMS

  • Unusual bleeding, such as from the gums, nose or gastrointestinal tract.
  • Unexplained bruising.

CAUSES

  • Excessive amounts of anticoagulant drugs, such as warfarin or dicumarol.
  • Prolonged use of antibiotics. Vitamin K is produced by intestinal bacteria that are destroyed by antibiotics.
  • Gallbladder disease.
  • Malabsorption disorders, such as celiac disease, pellagra, Crohn’s disease, ulcerative colitis, or cystic fibrosis.

RISK INCREASES WITH – Poor nutrition, especially an unbalanced diet with inadequate amounts of vitamin K.

HOW TO PREVENT – Injections of vitamin K are given to newborn infants and to persons with gallbladder disease or malabsorption disorders to prevent deficiency. For most people, a well-balanced diet should provide all the vitamin K necessary.

What To Expect

DIAGNOSTIC MEASURES

  • Your own observation of symptoms.
  • Medical history and physical exam by a doctor.
  • Laboratory studies of blood clotting.

APPROPRIATE HEALTH CARE

  • Doctor’s treatment.
  • Self-care after diagnosis.

POSSIBLE COMPLICATIONS – Severe or fatal hemorrhage.

PROBABLE OUTCOME – Curable with vitamin K supplements by mouth or injection.

How To Treat

GENERAL MEASURES – If you take anticoagulants, take only the prescribed amount. Have frequent blood tests to monitor prothrombin time and prevent unexpected bleeding.

MEDICATION – Your doctor will prescribe vitamin K orally or by injection.

ACTIVITY – No restrictions.

DIET – Eat a well-balanced diet that includes foods high in vitamin K, such as green leafy vegetables, cauliflower, tomatoes, cheese, egg yolks and liver.

Call Your Doctor If

  • You have unexplained bleeding or bruising, especially if you take anticoagulants or have gallbladder disease or a malabsorptive disorder.

From the Complete Guide to Symptoms, Illness & Surgery by H. Winter Griffith, M.D. © 1995 The Putnam Berkley Group, Inc.; electronic rights by Medical Data Exchange.

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