Sometimes lithium carbonate (Lithobid, Eskalith) is added
to other medicines to treat
schizophrenia. It is not clear exactly how lithium
works, but it may help regulate certain brain chemicals (neurotransmitters) that cause mood changes. Lithium
carbonate may be most helpful for treating the mood problems associated with
schizophrenia, such as
Penny Frese, PhD, was studying fine arts at Ohio University when she met her future husband. They saw each other for several months, and she noticed he avoided talking about anything personal. "We took a walk in a park, and it was toward the end of summer -- a gorgeous, beautiful day. I confronted him about not being totally honest … and he said he had had a 'schizophrenic break.'"
For some couples, that might have been the end. Frese went to the library and read up on schizophrenia. She learned...
Lithium carbonate is a salt, so 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.
Low lithium levels can cause symptoms of mood
swings or emotional instability.
High levels can cause serious side
effects that could be fatal.
To keep levels in a safe range:
Eat a balanced diet. Ask your doctor about salt,
and get enough fluids.
If you have diarrhea or are in a situation
where you sweat a lot, talk to your doctor. Loss of water will change the
lithium levels in your body.
Know the signs of
high lithium carbonate, such as shaky hands and muscle
twitching, weakness, and loss of balance.
Have your blood tested
regularly (from every week to every 6 or 12 months) to check lithium blood
levels. Some of the signs of high levels are also found at normal levels.
You also need to be aware of the following:
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.
Always seek care from a health
professional if you are a woman and become pregnant while taking lithium
carbonate. Women who take lithium carbonate and breast-feed their babies also
need medical care from a health professional.
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 medicine.
Lithium carbonate can affect
thyroid and kidney function. Your doctor may have your blood tested to monitor
thyroid and kidney function while you are taking lithium.
seek medical treatment if you notice signs of excess 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.
See Drug Reference for a full list of side effects. (Drug
Reference is not available in all systems.)
Primary Medical Reviewer
Kathleen Romito, MD - Family Medicine
Specialist Medical Reviewer
Miklos Ferenc Losonczy, MD, PhD - Psychiatry
August 19, 2010
WebMD Medical Reference from Healthwise
August 19, 2010
This information is not intended to replace the advice of a doctor.
Healthwise disclaims any liability for the decisions you make based on this