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Maintenance Treatment for Bipolar Disorder

Lamictal Side Effects

Lamictal comes in several types of tablets, such as chewable or orally disintegrating. It adds to the effects of other central nervous system suppressants such as alcohol -- and to those found in many antihistamines, cold medications, pain medications, and muscle relaxants. Check with your doctor before taking any of these.

Three out of every 1,000 people taking Lamictal will develop a rash. Sometimes the rash can prove serious or even fatal. If a rash develops, this drug should be stopped immediately.

Common side effects of Lamictal include:

  • Headache
  • Dizziness
  • Diarrhea
  • Dream abnormalities
  • Itching
  • Vision difficulties

Medication errors have occurred in filling Lamictal prescriptions because other drugs have similar names, like Lamisil, lamivudine, Ludiomil, labetalol, and Lomotil. To avoid confusion, make sure the drug name is clearly written on your prescription.

Lithium for Bipolar Disorder

Lithium (brand names include Eskalith or Lithobid) is the most widely used and studied medication for treating bipolar disorder. It has been used for more than 50 years and helps reduce the severity and frequency of manic states. It may also help relieve bipolar depression.

People with bipolar disorder may take lifelong lithium as maintenance therapy to prevent relapses. When lithium treatment stops, relapses can occur within six months in 90% of patients. Moreover, subsequent lithium treatment may sometimes be less effective, particularly if lithium is stopped abruptly rather than gradually (meaning, over a period of 2 weeks or longer).

Studies show that lithium can significantly reduce the risk of suicide among people with bipolar disorder. It also helps prevent future manic episodes.

Lithium is a simple salt that acts on a person's central nervous system. Doctors don’t know exactly how lithium works to stabilize mood. However, it helps people with bipolar disorder have more control over their emotions and cope better with the problems of daily life.

When lithium is used as part of maintenance therapy for bipolar disorder, your doctor will want to take regular blood tests during your treatment because it can affect kidney and thyroid function. Blood tests will also help your doctor monitor the level of lithium in your blood. Your doctor also will probably suggest you drink two or three quarts of water or fluid a day during treatment and use a normal amount of salt in your food. Both salt and fluid can affect the levels of lithium in your blood, so its important to consume a steady amount every day.

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