Hypovitaminosis K

Last revised by Angela Liao on 7 Jul 2023

Hypovitaminosis K (also known as vitamin K deficiency) is caused by a lack of vitamin K in the body. 

The main symptoms and signs are related to clotting dyscrasia as vitamin K is vital as a cofactor for the enzymatic activation of several key components of the clotting pathway, including the prothrombogenic proteins, prothrombin, factors VII, IX, and X, and the anticoagulant molecules, proteins C, S and Z.

More concerning, is the possible deleterious sequelae of chronic subclinical vitamin K deficiency as it becomes clear that vitamin K is important for processes in the body other than clotting:

  • increased fracture risk: vitamin K is required for osteocalcin, a key molecule in osteogenesis

  • increased risk of some cancers, e.g. HCC

  • may be increased vascular calcification, and thus myocardial ischemia

  • fat malabsorption

  • chronic broad-spectrum antibiotics 3

    • in particular sulbactam/cefoperazone, cefamandole, cefmetazole, and cefotetan (antibiotics with an N-methyl-tetrazole-thiol side group)

  • dietary fat insufficiency

  • vitamin K supplementation produces a rapid resolution of the clotting dysfunction

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