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Lithium Carbonate Side Effects

Lithium Carbonate Side Effects

Lithium carbonate is widely used to treat mental disorders, particularly bipolar disorder. When administered in high doses, this medication can lead to side effects. This PsycholoGenie post brings you more details.
PsycholoGenie Staff
Lithium carbonate is an inorganic compound that is used for the treatment of bipolar depression and manic-depressive illness. Salts of lithium, other than carbonate form, have been used for therapeutic treatment of several ailments for over a hundred years now. In the early 1900s, studies revealed that this compound is effective for the treatment of depression. Ever since, it has been prescribed for managing the symptoms of depression along with other anti-depressive medications. Nevertheless, the drug can cause side effects if not administered in the right manner.

Properties and Uses

Pure lithium carbonate is a white, alkaline powder. Its basic properties are more or less similar to other alkali carbonates. It is soluble in water at a low temperature. Its insolubility increases with a rise in temperature. Further, the solubility can be enhanced by incorporating a specific amount of carbon dioxide.

Lithium carbonate is used for the treatment of mental illnesses. Some of these conditions include emotional instability, mood changes, schizoaffective problems, and at times, even a stomach upset. In addition to the medical intervention of calcium carbonate, this alkaline compound is also used in manufacturing industries.

Side Effects of Lithium Carbonate

When administered in the body, this medication affects the activity of other electrolytes such as sodium, potassium, and calcium. According to medical studies, it is claimed that lithium ions regulate messages conveyed to the brain, either by delaying or amplifying the signal. For therapeutic usage, oral tablets and liquid syrup based on the compound are available under various brand names in the market.

The dosage of lithium carbonate is very critical. If taken in low doses, this compound is not harmful; whereas, if administered in excessively, it leads to lithium toxicity. The required dosage varies depending upon the age, sensitivity to lithium ions, and the overall health condition of the patient. For example, a low dose is usually prescribed for elderly people. Hence, it is always advisable to take this medication under medical supervision

Lithium carbonate is a slow acting compound; it takes about 2 - 3 weeks for it to completely take effect, after one has started administering the medications. The possible side effects are:
  • Increased thirst
  • Nausea
  • Drowsiness
  • Vomiting
  • Diarrhea
  • Frequent urination
  • Irritation
  • Lack of coordination
  • Thyroid insufficiency
  • Thinning of hair
  • Hand tremors
  • Muscle fatigue
At higher concentrations, severe effects like blurred vision, tinnitus (ringing ears), and excess discharge of urine may be observed.

Mildly adverse effects of lithium carbonate are commonly observed, which subside after lowering the dose. In severe cases, the physician may recommend cessation of the therapy. Speaking about its interaction with other medications, this compound should not be taken along with diuretics, as it may lead to renal problems. As a part of the therapy, the physician often monitors the serum lithium levels for any abrupt changes.

In case of fever or other health conditions, one should seek advice from the concerned physician about the continuation of this medication. In order to minimize the side effects, one should consume a well-balanced diet and drink ample amounts of water (about 10 - 12 glasses) every day. As of now, clinical trials regarding the effects of calcium carbonate on pregnant women and children are inconclusive. Hence, for safety reasons, children, pregnant women, lactating women, and those who are planning a pregnancy should abstain from these medications.

Disclaimer: This PsycholoGenie article is for informative purposes only, and should not be used as a replacement for expert medical advice.