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Bipolar Disorder Health Center

Lithium for Bipolar Disorder

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Lithium Side Effects continued...

Common side effects of lithium can include:

  • Hand tremor (If tremors are particularly bothersome, an additional medication can help.)
  • Increased thirst
  • Increased urination
  • Diarrhea
  • Vomiting
  • Weight gain
  • Impaired memory
  • Poor concentration
  • Drowsiness
  • Muscle weakness
  • Hair loss
  • Acne
  • Decreased thyroid function (which can be treated with thyroid hormone)

Notify your doctor if you suspect you may have persistent side effects from lithium or if you develop diarrhea, vomiting, fever, unsteady walking, fainting, confusion, slurred speech, or rapid heart rate.

Tell your doctor about history of cancer, heart disease, kidney disease, epilepsy, and allergies. Make sure your doctor knows about all other drugs you are taking. Avoid products that are low in sodium (salt) since a low sodium diet can lead to excessively high lithium levels. While taking lithium, use caution when driving or using machinery and limit alcoholic beverages.

If you miss a dose of lithium, take it as soon as you remember it -- unless the next scheduled dose is within two hours (or six hours for slow-release forms). If so, skip the missed dose and resume your usual dosing schedule. Do not "double up" the dose to catch up.

There are a few serious risks to consider. The drug has been linked to certain birth defects and should be used with caution in pregnant women, especially during the first three months of pregnancy. Breastfeeding isn't recommended if you are taking lithium. Also, in some people, long-term lithium treatment can interfere with kidney function or lead to permanent kidney damage -- which is why periodic monitoring of blood tests to measure kidney functioning is important.

 

WebMD Medical Reference

Reviewed by Joseph Goldberg, MD on September 17, 2014
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