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Lithium is widely used for treating various mental illnesses such as bipolar disorder, depression, and ADHD, all of which I've talked about extensively. However, like any medication, lithium can cause side effects, and in some cases, it may lead to lithium toxicity.
Lithium toxicity is a condition in which there's too much lithium in your blood. When there's an excessive amount of lithium in your body than is required, it can have some side effects like nausea and blurry vision.
The good news is, you can easily avoid lithium toxicity by using the lowest amount of the drug that does the job. For some people, even subtherapeutic levels (below 0.6 mmol/L) does the job. You also want to monitor your blood lithium levels with your doctor periodically throughout the course of your treatment.
The effects of lithium toxicity are treatable or otherwise reversible. Just ensure you seek medical attention immediately if you believe you have lithium toxicity.
But how do you know you have lithium toxicity?
Let's talk about the signs and symptoms of lithium toxicity.
The symptoms of lithium toxicity can vary depending on the severity of the condition. Mild toxicity may present symptoms such as nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, and tremors.
More severe lithium toxicity may cause confusion, muscle spasms, and drowsiness.
The symptoms of mild lithium toxicity include:
More severe cases of lithium toxicity can manifest with the following symptoms:
In rare cases, lithium toxicity over long term may lead to kidney failure. However, it's relatively easy to prevent. Read on.
Lithium toxicity usually occurs as a result of taking lithium in excessive amounts or using it too frequently.
Lithium toxicity can also occur due to interactions with other drugs and supplements, which can affect the way your body processes lithium.
Knowing what causes lithium toxicity, it becomes so much easier to prevent. For starters, always follow your doctor's prescription and let them know what other medications you're currently on.
Here are some simple tips to prevent lithium toxicity:
If you experience symptoms of lithium toxicity, seek medical attention immediately.
If the toxicity is mild, your doctor may reduce the lithium dose or temporarily stop the medication until the symptoms subside. In severe cases, your doctor may keep you at the hospital for close monitoring of vital signs, administering intravenous fluids to prevent dehydration, and managing any potential complications.
To reiterate, lithium is generally safe for treating a wide range of mental illnesses. Just ensure you follow doctor's orders and never go overboard.