Lithium Side Effects, Important Information, How to Take & More

Lithium is a medication used to treat mental disorders and manic episodes. It is available in the form of tablets and liquid form. Lithium works by affecting the flow of sodium through the muscle and nerve cells in the body, boosting the activity of neurotransmitters in the brain. Lithium can be used to reduce the intensity of manic episodes and can help treat symptoms like hyperactivity, aggression, rushed speech, and anger.

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Lithium can also be taken to cure headaches, epilepsy, asthma, alcoholism, diabetes, movement disorders, herpes simplex, liver disease, Graves’ disease, kidney disease, Huntington’s disease, Tourette’s syndrome, seborrhea, arthritis, and attention deficit-hyperactivity disorder (ADHD).

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Side effects

Lithium can help treat mental disorders and manic episodes, but it also has some side effects. Most of the side effects aren’t severe and go away as your body adjusts to the use of Lithium. However, visit your doctor immediately if any of these minor side effects persist or worsen.

Minor side effects

  • Discoloration in toes and fingers
  • Tremors in your hands
  • Drowsiness
  • Dry mouth
  • Nervousness
  • Changes in hair or skin
  • Loss of appetite
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Stomach pain
  • Headaches
  • Diarrhea
  • Altered taste perception

 

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However, some of these side effects are severe and can lead to death if not treated immediately. Seek immediate medical help if you experience any of the following major side effects.

Major side effects

  • Feeling you might faint
  • Memory problems and hallucinations
  • Increased thirst and urination
  • Fever
  • Uncontrolled muscle movements
  • Seizures and convulsions
  • Loss of bladder or bowel control
  • Rapid or irregular heartbeat
  • Shortness of breath
  • Slurred speech
  • Little to no urination
  • Ringing in your ears
  • Vision problems
  • Pain behind your eyes

 

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How to use?

Take Lithium only according to the prescribed dosage, without increasing or decreasing your dose. You can overdose even if you take just a little more than prescribed, so follow your doctor’s instructions carefully. You can take Lithium with food if you feel nauseous. Make sure you swallow the tablet whole without chewing, breaking, or crushing it as this can affect your dosage. If you are taking the liquid medicine, it is advisable to use a dose-measuring device to ensure you get the right dose. Lithium can cause dehydration, so keep drinking plenty of liquids while taking this medicine. Lithium will not work immediately and has to be taken regularly to be effective. However, visit your doctor if your condition does not improve after taking Lithium for a week. You will also need to visit your doctor for frequent blood tests. Store Lithium in a cool, dry place, closing the bottle tightly if not in use.

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Precautions

  • Do not use Lithium if you are allergic to any of the active or inactive ingredients found in it. It is advisable to ask for a list of ingredients from your pharmacist to avoid a severe allergic reaction.
  • Inform your doctor of all the diseases you have had, especially if you have a history of kidney disease, fainting spells, thyroid disorders, heart disease, low levels of sodium, or debilitating illness.
  • As the side effects of taking Lithium include drowsiness, avoid operating machinery or driving a car until you are sure about the way Lithium affects your body.
  • Lithium should not be given to anyone under twelve years of age.
  • Inform your doctor and dentist of all the medications you are taking before undergoing any surgery.
  • Do not change your salt intake while taking Lithium as it can affect your dosage.
  • It is uncertain whether Lithium has harmful effects on an unborn baby. Consult your doctor about the use of Lithium if you are pregnant.
  • Lithium can pass into breast-milk and have adverse effects on a nursing infant. Avoid taking Lithium if you are breastfeeding.

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