Lithium Can Be Used to Treat Bipolar Disorder

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Bipolar disorder, otherwise known as manic-depressive disorder, affects roughly 5.7 million adult Americans. Though the onset age for bipolar disorder tends to be 25 years old, it can occur in early childhood or later in life (40’s and 50’s). As reported by the World Health Organization, bipolar disorder is the sixth leading cause of disability in the world.

One of the most researched and proven treatments for bipolar disorder is lithium. Lithium bipolar can be used to either calm or prevent depression caused by the disorder. Along with experiencing a depressive phase, those with the illness will endure an elevated phase known as mania. Lithium carbonate can be used to lessen the asperity and frequency of mania.

Numerous studies have been conducted on the use of lithium in mental illness and researchers have found that in mood disorders, of which bipolar is one, lithium can be used to reduce the risk of suicide. Respectively, psychiatrists can prescribe lithium carbonate  for maintenance therapy.

Doctors are still unclear as to how lithium works to steady an individual’s mood but what we do know is that lithium acts on an individual’s nervous system. As a result, doctors speculate that lithium helps to strengthen an individual’s nerve cell connections in brain regions that manage thinking, mood, and behavior. In this case, the majority of these nerve cell connections would be in the left hemisphere of the brain as this is the side that deals with logic, reasoning, and analytic thought.

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It’s important to note that lithium bipolar takes several weeks to start working. First, doctors will order regular blood tests throughout the duration of treatment, as lithium has the potential to affect thyroid function or kidney. Generally speaking, lithium carbonate has the most effect when the amount of the drug in your body remains at a constant level. Keep in mind that the level of lithium in your body should never be too low or too high as this could result in serious lithium side effects. Most doctors will suggest that patients consume eight to twelve glasses of water or fluid a day throughout the duration of treatment and to incorporate a normal amount of salt in their food. It’s crucial that an individual consumes a steady, balanced amount of both salt and fluid every day as both can affect the levels of lithium in an individual’s blood.

When using lithium bipolar, the dose will vary from patient to patient. Additionally, as phases of an individual’s illness changes, so will the doses. If, for example, an individual experiences more mania than depression, their psychiatrist might prescribe more doses of lithium carbonate, such as Eskalith Capsule or Lithobid. Bipolar disorder can be treated with a number of drugs, but studies have shown that some people can maintain their disorder with just lithium.

There can be lithium side effects.

Despite being minor side effects, roughly 75% of people who take lithium bipolar will endure some sort of side effect. As mentioned, the side effects will depend entirely on the individual and the stage of their illness. Some become less severe after your body adjusts to the drug; while other times, lithium side effects can be controlled by adjusting the dose. With that being said,  consult your doctor before you chose to change your dose or brand of lithium and never do it without his or her go-ahead. If you are experiencing any problems with your treatment, have an open and honest discussion with your doctor.

Lithium side effects include the following:

  • Vomiting
  • Impaired memory
  • Drowsiness
  • Hair Loss
  • Acne
  • Poor concentration
  • Weight gain
  • Increased thirst and urination
  • Hand tremors
  • Diarrhea
  • Muscle weakness
  • Decreased thyroid function

If you are using lithium bipolar, consult your doctor if you experience the following: vomiting, fever, diarrhea, unsteady walking, confusion, slurred speech, fainting, or rapid heart rate.

Furthermore, before your doctor prescribes lithium carbonate, make sure that you inform him or her if you have a history with heart disease, kidney disease, cancer, allergies, and epilepsy. It’s also important to let your doctor know all of the other drugs you are currently taking. Additionally, if you are using lithium bipolar, try to avoid products that are low in salt as this could lead to high levels of lithium in your blood. While taking lithium bipolar, be careful when driving, using machinery and reduce your consumption of alcoholic beverages.

If for some reason you miss a dose of lithium carbonate, make sure that you take it the second that you remember. However, if the next dose is supposed to be in two hours, skip the dose that you missed. Never “double up” the dose in an attempt to catch up.

It’s important to note that there are a number of risks an individual needs to consider before using lithium bipolar. For instance, the drug has been connected to birth defects. If you are pregnant, especially three months pregnant, use caution when taking the drug. Also, breastfeeding is not recommended while taking lithium carbonate. There can also an interference with kidney function if you have been taking lithium for a long period of time. This is why doctors will require regular blood tests in order to see how the kidneys are functioning.

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