Used for: Manic Depression, Recurrent Depression, Bipolar Depression
Also called: Licab; Lithosun; Eskalith; Intalith, Lithium carbonate.
Lithium alters the way that nerve cells respond to chemicals that are present in the brain. It is known that it is a very effective medicine and has been used for more than 50 years. Lithium causes little interference with normal emotional reactions.
Lithium is used to treat mania (overactive and excitable behavior), certain types of depression, and a condition known as Bipolar Disorder (where extreme changes in mood are experienced). Lithium decreases the intensity and frequency of mood swings.
➙ If you are pregnant, trying for a baby or breast-feeding.
➙ If you suffer from heart problems.
➙ If you suffer from kidney problems.
➙ If you suffer from psoriasis.
➙ If you suffer from Addison's Disease.
➙ If you suffer from Myasthenia Gravis (a muscle weakening disease).
➙ If you suffer from thyroid problems.
A specialist will start your Lithium treatment and take blood samples to make sure they have prescribed the correct dose. Once you have begun treatment, you need to have regular blood tests (sometimes called 'a Lithium level', a 'serum Lithium level' or a 'plasma Lithium level'). When your Lithium level has stabilized this type of test will be needed less often. This test is important because it tells the doctor how much Lithium is in the bloodstream, checking that your dosage is at the correct level. Blood tests are needed more often in the early stages of treatment or if your dosage has changed.
Do not crush or chew Lithium tablets because this could cause you to absorb too much from them.
Important: your pharmacist should supply you with the same brand of Lithium each time you receive a new prescription. If the medicine you have been given looks different to usual, speak to your pharmacist before taking any of them. This is because different brands give different blood levels of Lithium.
Try to get into the habit of taking Lithium at the same times each day to avoid missing any doses.
Do not stop taking Lithium without speaking with your doctor first. Stopping suddenly can cause problems and your doctor will want to reduce the dose you are taking gradually.
Lots of medicines can cause your level of Lithium to rise too high so always check with your pharmacist or doctor before taking any medicines; including pain killers such as Ibuprofen available to buy in shops and pharmacies.
It may take several weeks before you feel the full benefits of this treatment, although lots of people do notice a difference earlier.
You should drink plenty of fluids while you are being treated with Lithium. Keep to your usual salt intake and avoid any changes from your regular diet e.g. crash dieting programs. This is because it can change your Lithium level. Speak with your doctor before making any changes to your diet.
If you have an infection or illness that causes heavy sweating, being sick or diarrhea, consult your doctor, as this can affect the levels of lithium in your blood.
Along with their useful effects all medicines can cause unwanted side effects, which usually improve as your body adjusts to the new medicine. Speak with your doctor or pharmacist if any of the following side effects continue or become troublesome.
A. Nausea - After a few days your body will adjust to your new medicine and this side effect should improve. Needing to pass water more often than normal - If you are affected you may just need to plan ahead a little, for example, is there a toilet that you can easily use when you are at work or going about your daily business? You should still continue to drink plenty of water.
B. Shakiness - Your hands may be a little shaky. If affected avoid tasks that need very fine movements where possible.
C. Reduced co-ordination - If affected avoid tasks that require co-ordination such as driving or operating machinery.
If you experience blurred vision, loss of appetite, being sick, diarrhea, muscle weakness, drowsiness, feeling of being slow, excessive shakiness, a total lack of co-ordination, fainting, inability to urinate (pass water), slurred speech or convulsions (fits) seek urgent medical attention, you may have too much Lithium in your blood
➙ Keep all medicines out of the reach of children.
➙ Store in a cool, dry place, away from direct heat and light.
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