Lithium

Brand names of lithium

  • Carbolith
  • Cibalith-S
  • Duralith
  • Eskalith
  • Eskalith CR
  • Lithane
  • Lithizine
  • Lithobid,
  • Lithonate
  • Lithotabs

Lithium is an element or particle that is charged positively and is used for treating bipolar disorder (manic-depressive disorder) as well as depressive disorders. This substance has a close resemblance to potassium and sodium. Lithium works to create obstructions in many places within the cells as well as the surface of the cells along with additional atoms that are also positively charged - for instance, sodium, potassium, magnesium and calcium, minerals that have vital functions in the cells.

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Lithium hinders the production as well as uptake of neurotransmitters - chemical substances released by nerve cells in the brain to send signal to one another. In addition, lithium also has an effect on the intensity of serotonin and tryptophan within the brain. Lithium also facilitates augmented production of white blood cells (leucocytes) inside the bone marrow. The effects of using lithium generally start within one week of commencing the therapy, while the complete results become obvious by two to three weeks.

While lithium carbonate, the most widespread preparation, was approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for use in America in 1970, people have been using lithium from the 1950's.

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Things you need to tell your physician before taking lithium

Before you use lithium for the first time, you should let your physician and pharmacist know a few important things. First and foremost, tell them whether you have any allergic reactions on using lithium or any other drug. Also tell them about all the prescription and non-prescription medicaments, herbal products, dietary supplements and vitamins you are already taking or intend to take shortly.

Prior to beginning treatment with lithium, you need to tell your physician regarding your entire medical history. Tell him/ her if you are suffering from or have earlier suffered from any disease related to the heart, thyroid or kidneys; and/ or an organic brain syndrome (a medical condition that has an effect on the manner in which your brain functions). In addition, inform your physician if you are suffering from too much perspiration, acute diarrhea and/ or fever. Contact your physician in case you experience any of the above mentioned symptoms while undergoing treatment with lithium.

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In case you require undergoing any type of surgery, which may include a dental process, you need to inform your surgeon or dentist that you are already using lithium. Women who intend to take lithium should tell their physician beforehand if they are pregnant or are planning to become pregnant. New mothers should tell their physician if they are breast feeding. Contact your physician right away if you become pregnant while being treated with this medication.

People taking lithium ought to be aware of the fact that this medicament may cause drowsiness. Therefore, it is advisable that you do not undertake any activity that requires alertness, such as driving a car or operating a machine, till you are certain regarding the effects of the medication on your body.

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Usage

A positively charged element, lithium is employed to cure bipolar disorder (also known as manic-depressive disorder) and this medication acts to make the mood stable, while lessening the behavioural extremes by means of reinstating the balance of neurotransmitters (chemicals that nerve cells in the brain use to keep in contact with one another). Using this medication for a continued period offers a number of benefits, counting lessening the frequency of frenzied incidents; violent hostile conducts; and lessening the symptoms related to manic episodes like feeling that other people want to harm you, inflated feelings of happiness and healthy, sensations of restlessness, tetchiness, and quick loud verbal communication.

How to use lithium

Lithium is taken orally, generally three to four times every day. You may also use this medication as per your physician's prescription. Lithium may be taken along with meals or soon after your meals, as this will help to reduce the chances of having an upset stomach. While undergoing treatment with lithium it is essential to drink as many as 8 to 12 tumblers of water or any other fluid daily. In addition, you should take a healthy diet containing the usual quantity of salt (sodium) as has been instructed by your physician or dietician during treatment with lithium. The levels of lithium in your bloodstream may undergo a change provided you take large amounts of salt in your food.

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Unless your physician instructs you otherwise, you should never increase or decrease the quantity of salt (sodium) in your diet while taking lithium. It is advisable that you take this medication at the same times every day, as it will facilitate in remembering that you have to take lithium. The dose of lithium is dependent on the medical condition of the patient, his/ her level of lithium in the bloodstream, and response to the therapy. As this medication works most excellently when its concentration in the body is maintained at a steady level, it is advisable that you should take it at regular intervals.

Lithium ought to be taken strictly according to your physician's prescription. You should keep taking this medication even after improvement in your symptoms and you start feeling better. Never discontinue this medication without talking to your physician. In case you stop taking this medication all of a sudden, it is likely that a number of conditions may deteriorate. Talk to your physician provided your condition remains the same or deteriorates even after treatment with lithium. Generally, it may possibly take about one to three weeks from the time of starting treatment to experience any progress in your condition.

Side effects

Serious:
Common:
  • diarrhea
  • fatigue
  • increased urination, thirst
  • loss of appetite
  • metallic taste in mouth
  • nausea
  • tremor in the hands
  • unexpected weight gain
Less common:

Possible interactions

Herbal medicines or minerals:
Lithium may interact with specific herbal products and/ or minerals. For instance, lithium may possibly result in enhanced amount of calcium in the body. Therefore, it is important that you consult your physician prior to taking supplements containing calcium. Using herbs having diuretic attributes or those that result in elimination of potassium from the body may possibly cause lithium toxicity.
Foods:
When you are taking lithium it is important that you maintain a standard diet and do not limit your usual intake of salt (sodium).
Alcohol:
Consumption of alcoholic beverages or taking alcohol in any other form while being treated with lithium may perhaps result in an augmented intoxication. Therefore, if you develop lithium toxicity you should completely keep away from taking alcohol in any form.
Tobacco smoking:
Undergoing treatment with lithium may make you more susceptible to nicotine. Hence, avoid smoking while using this medication.
Marijuana smoking:
Avoid smoking marijuana when you are using lithium because it may possibly enhance weariness, droopiness, lethargy and stupor, while heighten tremor induced by lithium use. At the same time, it may also possibly enhance the chances of hastening an obsessive behaviour.
Exposure to heat:
People taking lithium should avoid coming in contact with extreme heat, as it may cause excessive perspiration and result in considerable running down of water and salt, thereby giving rise to lithium toxicity. If you are using lithium you also need to stay away from sauna baths.
Occurrence of unrelated illness:
If you are undergoing treatment with lithium you should know that developing unrelated ailments/ conditions, such as vomiting, sweating, fever and diarrhea may cause considerable changes in the concentration of lithium in the bloodstream and tissues. Your physical condition needs to be monitored closely to avoid severe lithium toxicity.

Discontinuation

Although discontinuing the use of lithium does not result in any withdrawal symptom, it is advisable that you should not stop using this medication before completing the prescribed regimen. In fact, in order to obtain the maximum benefits of using lithium, some people may require undergoing regular treatment with this medication for about a year. If the medication is discontinued abruptly by 'responders' it may lead to the return of either depression or mania. One may only stop taking lithium prematurely provided they develop brain toxicity or a syndrome akin to uncorrectable diabetes insipidus.

Storage instructions

You should always store lithium in the container in which it was made available. Close the container tightly and keep it in a place that is inaccessible by children. This medication ought to be stored at room temperature and in a place free from too much heat as well as dampness. Never keep this medicine in your bathroom. Discard all medicines that have either become outdated or are needed no more. It is advisable that you consult your pharmacist regarding the safe and appropriate way to dispose of such products.

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