Lithium carbonate (Eskalith and Lithobid) is effective in
balancing mood in people with
bipolar disorder. How it works is not completely
understood. It may affect certain brain chemicals (neurotransmitters) that cause mood changes.
Ongoing treatment -- both psychotherapy and medication -- is essential to
controlling the mood swings of bipolar disorder. How can family members help
their loved one stick with treatment?
"Learn as much as you can about the disease," says Kay Redfield
Jamison, PhD, professor of psychiatry at John Hopkins University School of
Medicine and author of An Unquiet Mind. "Read and read some more.
Join support groups. You'll get emotional support and information you
Also, learn to watch for...
Lithium carbonate is a salt and acts like other salts (such
as sodium) in the body. Any change in the balance between body salts and
liquids (mostly water) in the body can change the amount of lithium carbonate
in the blood. Lithium carbonate blood levels need to be kept within a safe
range. High levels can cause serious side effects, even death; low levels can
cause symptoms of mania or depression. You will need to learn how to keep your
lithium carbonate blood levels at a safe and effective level and to recognize
the signs of
high lithium carbonate, which include drowsiness,
muscle twitching, and diarrhea.
It is very important to have your
blood tested regularly (from every week to every 6 or 12 months) to check
lithium carbonate blood levels.
You also need to be aware of the
Because lithium carbonate may make you tired and
less alert, avoid driving a car or using other dangerous machinery until you
know how lithium affects you.
Breast-feeding while on lithium
carbonate is usually not recommended since high levels of the medicine have
been found in breast milk. Talk to your doctor if you want to breast-feed while
Do not drink alcohol if you are taking lithium
carbonate. Lithium can hide the signs of alcohol intoxication; your blood
alcohol levels could become dangerously high if you drink while taking this
Always seek medical treatment if you notice signs of too
much lithium in the blood.
Always tell each health professional who
treats you that you are taking lithium carbonate. Taking certain medicines can
interfere with the amount of lithium in your blood. Some medicines can cause
your lithium blood level to get too high and other medicines can cause it to
get too low.
Primary Medical Reviewer
Kathleen Romito, MD - Family Medicine
Specialist Medical Reviewer
Lisa S. Weinstock, MD - Psychiatry
March 9, 2010
WebMD Medical Reference from Healthwise
March 09, 2010
This information is not intended to replace the advice of a doctor.
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