Which symptoms indicate a vitamin K deficiency

A woman has a nosebleed

Too little vitamin K can cause bleeding. (Source: eternalcreative/Getty Images)
Vitamin K is important for blood clotting and bones. Read about who is at risk of vitamin K deficiency and how it manifests itself.

A vitamin deficiency can have very different effects – the symptoms vary depending on which vitamin it is and how severe the deficiency is. If there is a lack of vitamin K, this is noticeable, among other things, in an increased tendency to bleed.

But how common is a vitamin K deficiency actually? How do you recognize him? And: Is it recommended to take vitamin K as a dietary supplement?

What vitamin K does in the body

Important to know: “The” vitamin K does not exist. Rather, the term refers to a group of similar compounds called K vitamins. The plant-based vitamin K1 (phylloquinone) and vitamin K2 (menaquinone) occur naturally. The latter is produced by bacteria and can also be found in animal foods. Bacteria in the human intestine also produce vitamin K, but only in small quantities. There are also other K vitamins such as the artificially produced vitamin K3.

Vitamin K is particularly involved in the formation of so-called coagulation factors and proteins. If the vitamin is missing, the blood can no longer clot as quickly. The vitamin also plays a role in bone metabolism.

How common is vitamin K deficiency?

Vitamin K deficiency is rare. How high a person’s daily requirement is can currently only be estimated. However, experts assume that healthy people get enough vitamin K if they eat a balanced diet.

It is estimated that male adults between the ages of 19 and 50 should consume 70 micrograms (µg) of vitamin K with their diet every day; from the age of 51, the requirement increases to 80 micrograms. Women need slightly less vitamin K: their estimated daily requirement is 60 (between 19 and 50 years) or 65 micrograms (from 51 years). You can find out which foods contain a particularly high amount of vitamin K here .

Vitamin K deficiency: who is at risk?

However, deficiency symptoms can occur in the context of certain illnesses. These include, for example:

  • long-term artificial nutrition without additional administration of vitamin K
  • Gluten intolerance (celiac disease)
  • Lack of nutrient absorption after small intestine surgery (short bowel syndrome)
  • chronic intestinal diseases such as Crohn’s disease
  • Obstruction of the bile ducts outside the liver
  • alcoholism
  • chronic liver diseases

Diseases such as celiac disease, short bowel syndrome or Crohn’s disease can mean that the small intestine cannot adequately absorb the vitamin K contained in food. Malnutrition or malnutrition can also cause a vitamin K deficiency. However, this only happens very rarely in this country.

Certain medications can also cause vitamin K deficiency. These include, for example, anticoagulants (blood thinners) from the group of vitamin K antagonists such as phenprocoumon and warfarin. These medicines inhibit blood clotting by suppressing the absorption of vitamin K. Antibiotics can also cause a vitamin K deficiency if they disrupt the intestinal flora so that the body absorbs vitamin K less well.

Vitamin K deficiency: These symptoms can occur

A vitamin K deficiency primarily leads to coagulation disorders. The tendency to bleed is increased because it takes longer for the blood to clot. Possible symptoms of a severe deficiency include spontaneous bleeding, such as nosebleeds. It can also happen that an injury bleeds for longer than normal. In infants who do not receive additional vitamin K, a deficiency can lead to serious bleeding, such as a cerebral hemorrhage.

Studies also suggest that vitamin K deficiency may be linked to osteoporosis (bone loss). However, exactly how a deficiency affects the bones and what symptoms can be expected is still unclear.


A vitamin K deficiency is rare in this country. It usually only affects people who suffer from certain illnesses or who are artificially fed for a long time. Newborns also have a vitamin K deficiency, which is why they receive additional vitamin K. If there is too little vitamin K or the body cannot absorb it properly, this affects blood clotting: the risk of bleeding is then increased, so symptoms such as nosebleeds can occur.


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