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January 5, 2012

Lithium Side Effects: When to Call Your Doctor

Studies suggest Lithium may be up to 80 percent effective in reducing symptoms and episode frequency of mania and hypomania. Besides improving psychosocial functions, research credits Lithium with up to a six-fold reduction in suicide risk. Regularly monitoring blood levels protects against Lithium toxicity. Signs of toxicity include giddiness, blurred vision, slurred speech, ringing in the ears and acute shakiness or seizures, which should be reported immediately to your doctor. Lithium toxicity manifests as excessive thirst, increased or frequent urination, appetite loss, diarrhea, vomiting, drowsiness, muscle weakness, coordination problems, blackouts, and a slow, pounding or irregular heart rate. Watch for dizziness or vertigo, bowel or bladder control problems, dry mouth or odd metallic taste, restlessness, loss of appetite or nausea, dry or thinning hair, as well as unusual muscle tension, involuntary movements, and decreased libido. Some people experience adverse reactions to Lithium-such as difficulty breathing, hives, or swollen face, lips, tongue or throat. Not everyone experiences problems and most side effects go away once your body adjusts. Report side effects to your doctor. In many cases, they can be minimized or resolved by adjusting your dosage. Avoid caffeinated beverages like coffee, tea or cola, because caffeine can decrease the body's Lithium levels. Lithium may cause drowsiness or dizziness, particularly when you first begin taking it. So, avoid driving or operating machinery until you know how the drug will affect you. Lithium can interfere with thyroid function, so your doctor may check your thyroid levels periodically. If a problem's found, thyroid drugs can help. Discuss your other medications with your doctor. Lithium interacts with antidepressants and high-blood pressure medication, over-the-counter medications such as Advil or Motrin and drugs containing dextromethorphan, like Robitussin DM. For more information on treating bipolar, watch additional videos on this site.

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Last Updated:
December 20, 2012