by Hamid Tabatabai, M.D.
- 6October 2007
Lithium (Lithobid, Eskalith, Lithonate, Lithotabs)
IMPORTANT NOTE: This is a summary and does not contain all possible facts. For complete information about these product ask your health care professional. This information is also for use in children. Adult patients may have medical conditions or be taking medications that will require additional precautions.
Psychiatric medications are used to treat certain brain conditions (such as mood conditions, thought disorders like schizophrenia, or ADHD). They work by helping to restore the balance of certain natural chemicals in the brain.
The dosage is based on your medical condition and response to therapy. Take these medications as directed, even if you are feeling better and thinking more clearly. Do not make any changes without consulting with your doctor.
You should familiarize yourself with the side effects but do not allow them to scare you. In most cases they are mild & temporary. The serious side effects are very rare. Remember that the benefit of treating your child’s medical condition is far greater than the risk of side effects or leaving it untreated.
Minor or moderate side effects usually go away by themselves or by reducing the dosage. You should however stop taking the medication if you notice serious side effects and report them to your doctor right away.
Lithium is used to treat mood disorders (Bipolar conditions).
Lithium is very safe in most people when you have the right amount of lithium in your body. Too much of it however, can be toxic & cause serious medical problems such as seizures, requiring immediate hospitalization. The difference between the correct amount of lithium and too much, is small. Therefore, it is important that your blood level be checked regularly.
Fortunately, lithium’s blood level remains stable almost always if you do not take extra dose, don’t get dehydrated, do not have a kidney problem, and are not on a low salt diet.
Also before it reaches a toxic level, it gives you warning signs such as nausea, diarrhea, shaking of the hands, slurred speech and wobbly gate. You should stop it right away and call your doctor if you have any of these symptoms.
HOW TO USE:
Take with food or milk or immediately after meals to prevent stomach upset. Drink 8-12 glasses of water or other fluid each day and maintain a regular diet while taking this medication. Do not change the amount of salt in your diet.
Mild or temporary side effects: tiredness, increased thirst, increased frequency of urination, and mild trembling of the hands.
Weight gain or severe tiredness or tremor, and skin rash may need discontinuation of the medicine.
In some patients, lithium slows down thyroid gland. Again your doctor should order thyroid studies at the start of lithium and then periodically. If hypothyroidism occurs, lithium should be discontinued. In select cases, when lithium is the only medication that is effective for your mood disorder, the doctor may decide to continue it but supplement your thyroid hormone with prescribed hormone such as Synthroid.
If the child accidentally overdoses, go to your emergency room immediately. If he has taken only 1 or 2 extra dose, he probably will be ok, but call your doctor right away to be sure.