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Lithium Side Effects

Lithium carbonate is the generic name for Eskalith. This prescription drug is usually prescribed for the treatment of the manic episodes that accompany manic-depressive illness, a condition whereby an individual's mood will swing from depression to excessive excitement. A manic episode may involve some or all of these symptoms - Elation; Poor Judgment; Fast/Urgent Talking; Aggressiveness; Frenetic physical activity; Grandiose, unrealistic ideas; Hostility
Little need for sleep; Poor judgment. Lithium is also sometimes prescribed for the treatment of premenstrual tension, eating disorders such as bulimia, certain movement disorders, and sexual addictions.

Lithium Side Effects

If you are taking Lithium, the possibility of side effects will vary depending on the level of Lithium in your bloodstream. If you experience unfamiliar or troubling symptoms of any kind, be sure to inform a doctor as quickly as possible.

Possible Lithium Side Effects at start of treatment
Hand tremor, mild thirst, nausea, discomfort, frequent urination

Other Lithium Side Effect Possibilities

Weight gain, weight loss, involuntary tongue movements, involuntary urination or bowel movements, irregular heartbeat, hair loss, hallucinations, increased salivation, itching, loss of appetite, low blood pressure, muscle rigidity, muscle twitching, painful joints, abdominal pain, blackout spells, cavities, changes in taste perception, coma, confusion, dehydration, dizziness, dry hair, dry mouth, fatigue, gas, indigestion, poor memory, restlessness, ringing in ears, seizures, sexual dysfunction, skin problems, sleepiness, slowed thinking, slurred speech, startle response, swelling, thinning hair, tightness in chest, vision problems, vomiting weakness.

It is quite possible for side effects other than those listed here to occur. Again, if any any seem particularly strange or bothersome, contact a doctor immediately. To minimize the risk of harmful side effects, eat a balanced diet that includes some salt and as much liquid as possible. If you have been sweating a great deal or have had diarrhea, ensure that you get extra liquids and salt. You should be careful in hot weather to avoid activities that cause you heavy sweating. Also avoid drinking large amounts of coffee, tea, or cola (which may cause dehydration through increased urination). Do not make a major change in your eating habits or go on a weight loss diet without first consulting your doctor. Always remember that the loss of water and salt from your body could lead to lithium poisoning.

Special Lithium Precautions

If the Lithium dosage is too low, no benefit will be derived and if it is too high, the patient could suffer from lithium poisoning. Thus, the patient and the doctor need to work together to find the optimal dosage. Initially this will mean frequent blood tests, to see how much of the drug is actually circulating in the patient's bloodstream. Indicators of lithium poisoning include unsteady walking, diarrhea, vomiting, drowsiness, tremor, and weakness. If you have any of these symptons, stop taking this drug and contact a doctor immediately.

To avoid an upset stomach, Lithium should be taken immediately after meals or with food or milk. Lithium should be taken exactly as prescribed and you should not change from one brand of Lithium to another without first consulting your doctor or pharmacist. Also, while taking Lithium, you should drink 10 to 12 glasses of water or fluid a day.

If you develop an infection (with a fever), you may need to reduce your Lithium dosage or even quit taking it temporarily. While you are ill, keep in close contact with your doctor about your condition. Long-acting forms of Lithium, such as Eskalith CR or Lithobid should be swallowed whole. They should not be chewed, crushed or broken.

Lithium may affect an individual's judgment or coordination. Thus, you should not drive, climb, or perform hazardous tasks until you understand if/how this drug affects you.

If you have a heart or kidney problem, brain or spinal cord disease, or a weak, run-down, or dehydrated condition, your doctor should prescribe Lithium with extra caution. Also, do ensure that your doctor is aware of any medical problems you may have had in the past or have now, including diabetes, epilepsy, thyroid problems, Parkinson's disease, and difficulty urinating.

The use of Lithium during pregnancy may harm the developing baby. If you are pregnant or plan to become pregnant, let your doctor know immediately. Lithium also appears in breast milk and is considered potentially harmful to a nursing infant. If Lithium is essential to your health, your doctor may advise you to discontinue breastfeeding while you are taking it.

If Lithium is taken with certain other drugs, the effects of either could be increased, decreased, or altered. Check with your doctor before combining Lithium with and all prescription and non-prescription drugs.

Warning: This information is intended to supplement, not be a substitute for the expertise and judgment of a doctor. Please consult a doctor for final and more detailed information about the possible side effects of this prescription medication.
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