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Lithium Side Effects

Bipolar Medications Library

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Updated September 21, 2011

Written or reviewed by a board-certified physician. See About.com's Medical Review Board.

Lithium is a drug developed from a naturally occurring element that is often prescribed as a mood stabilizer for patients with bipolar disorder. Lithium is sold under many brand names, including Duralith, Eskalith, Lithobid, Lithotabs, Lithane, Lithizine and Lithonate. If you are taking lithium, you need to be aware of this medication's possible side effects.

Lithium Side Effects

Check with your doctor if any of the following Lithium side effects continue or are bothersome:

More Common: Increased frequency of urination; increased thirst; nausea; trembling of hands (slight)

Less Common: Acne or skin rash; bloated feeling or pressure in the stomach; muscle twitching (slight)

Notify your doctor immediately if you experience any of the following while taking lithium:

Early symptoms of lithium overdose or toxicity:

Diarrhea; drowsiness; loss of appetite; muscle weakness; nausea or vomiting; slurred speech; trembling

Late symptoms of overdose or toxicity:

Blurred vision; clumsiness or unsteadiness; confusion; convulsions (seizures); dizziness; trembling (severe)

Notify your doctor as soon as possible if you experience any of the following side effects of lithium:

Less Common: Fainting; fast or slow heartbeat; irregular pulse; troubled breathing especially during hard work or exercise); unusual tiredness or weakness; weight gain (may be significant)

Rare: Blue color and pain in fingers and toes; coldness of arms and legs; dizziness; eye pain; headache; noises in the ears; vision problems

Signs of Low Thyroid Function: Dry, rough skin; hair loss; hoarseness; mental depression; sensitivity to cold; swelling of feet or lower legs; swelling of neck; unusual excitement

Symptoms of Lithium-Induced Nephrogenic Diabetes Insipidus

Although increased thirst and increased urine output are very common side effects of lithium, it's important to tell your doctor if you have them. About 5% of patients on lithium develop lithium-induced NDI over time, which can be serious if not treated.

Other side effects not listed above may also occur in some patients. If you notice any other side effects, check with your doctor.

Disclaimer: This is not intended to be all-inclusive or to replace information provided by your doctor or with the prescription from the manufacturer.

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