Medicines, when taken as
prescribed, can help control bipolar mood swings. Your doctor will vary the amounts and combinations of
your medicines according to your symptoms, which
type of bipolar disorder you have, and how you respond to the medicines.
Bipolar disorder is a serious diagnosis that affects more than 10 million Americans. Unlike depression, bipolar disorder is equally common in men and women. The onset of the condition typically occurs in the early 20s, but (although rare) the first symptoms can appear in early childhood or late in life.
Although some people may have only one episode, bipolar disorder is a lifelong condition that usually involves recurrent episodes. It's usually marked by episodes of mania or hypomania (low-grade...
Taking medicines during pregnancy for bipolar disorder
may increase the risk of birth defects. If you are pregnant or thinking of
becoming pregnant, talk to your doctor. You may need to keep taking medicine if
your bipolar disorder is severe. Your doctor can help weigh the risks of
treatment against the risk of harm to your pregnancy.
Several medicines are used to treat bipolar disorder. It
may take time to find the
treatment that works best for you. The most common medicines used are:
Mood stabilizers, such as
lithium (Lithobid). Experts believe that lithium may affect certain brain chemicals (neurotransmitters) that cause mood changes. A mood stabilizer and an
antipsychotic are recommended as the first medicines for acute manic episodes.
When you and your doctor are
discussing your medicines, think about whether your lifestyle allows you to
take medicines on time every day. A medicine you only take once a day may work
best for you if you have a hard time remembering to take your medicines.
During your doctor's
appointment, ask about:
The side effects of each
How often you will need to take the
How the medicines may interact with other medicines you
Whether it's important to take the medicines at
the same time every day.
You'll need to check in with your doctor regularly when taking medicines for bipolar disorder.
If you are prescribed carbamazepine, lithium,
or valproate, you will need regular blood tests to monitor the
amount of medicine in your blood. Too much lithium in your bloodstream may lead
side effects. Blood tests can also help show how medicines are affecting your liver, kidneys, and thyroid gland or to measure the
number of blood cells in your body.
The use of antidepressants alone has been linked to an
increase in manic episodes. Antidepressant treatment
needs to be monitored closely to avoid causing a manic episode.
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has
issued an advisory on antidepressant and anticonvulsant medicines and the risk of suicide. The FDA does not recommend that people stop using these medicines.
Instead, a person taking antidepressants should be watched for
warning signs of suicide, such as threatening to harm himself or herself and being preoccupied with death or suicide. This is especially important
at the beginning of treatment or when doses are changed.