Aim: Lithium has been widely used for over 50 years. It is highly effective in preventing attacks of depression or mania, by stabilising your chemistry. It is a salt, and not a sedative or tranquilliser. Lithium is not addictive, and is intended to be taken even when you are well, to keep you well.
Lithium also makes antidepressants work more effectively in some cases.
Dosage: The number of tablets you need is based on the blood test results. Being prescribed a high number of tablets does not mean you have a severe illness, but in fact means your kidneys are highly effective.
Time of taking medication: The tablets should be taken morning and night. Taking the tablets after meals may also reduce any side effects.
Side effects: You may experience some or none of the following:
- Loss of appetite, nausea, vomiting.
- Hands shaking.
- Increased thirst, and consequently passing urine more often by day, and perhaps also by night. Drink only water or low calorie drinks to lessen the risk of weight gain. Ant antidote to this side effect is available.
- Memory problems.
Slight side effects are common, especially when first starting Lithium. Severe side effects, or the development of side effects which were not present previously, suggest that you have too much Lithium in your bloodstream. Conditions which can lead to excessively high Lithium levels include: vomiting, diarrhoea, or sudden decreases in salt or fluid intake. Diuretics (fluid tablets) and some of the more powerful painkillers can also cause this, and should not be taken without consulting a doctor.
Blood tests: Regular blood tests are necessary to ensure you are getting the correct dosage of Lithium. To obtain an accurate result, you must take your medication regularly. Your blood test must be taken as close as possible to 12 HOURS AFTER the time of your last Lithium tablets. You have to take your medication regularly for one week before a blood test to make the result valid.
Long term effects: A small number of people develop an UNDERACTIVE TYROID GLAND while on Lithium. There has been a lot of research concerning possible kidney problems in association with Lithium, but it seems unlikely at present that there is any cause for concern. You will have blood tests every year to check the functioning of your kidneys and also of your thyroid gland. If you intend becoming pregnant, you should discuss with your doctor stopping the medication; Lithium has an increased risk of heart deformities in unborn children.
This information is intended to improve your knowledge of the treatment you are receiving. Any further points can be discussed at your next consultation with your doctor.
Important Disclaimer: This site is medical information only, and is not to be taken as diagnosis, advice or treatment, which can only be decided by your own doctor.