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The Lithium Bipolar Affair


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Bipolar Disorder is a common mental disorder with more than 1% of the world's population suffering from various degrees ranging from mild to severe.

Statistically, men and women are equally represented. In the United States alone, over 1.2% of the adult population (more than 2.2 million people) have bipolar disorder (also known as manic-depressive illness).

Why Lithium became popular in the medical field:

  • Incidentally discovered in the early nineteenth century, (1800s to be precise), lithium contains serum concentrations at 1.0-1.2 mmol/L, effective in controlling suicidal tendencies among bipolar patients.
  • It is an excellent mood stabilizer and offers help during acute cases of mania as well as reduce depression.
  • Lithium reduces the production of an important cellular switch, called inositol monophosphate which indicates that it can be avoided.
  • To date it is medically the preferred choice in long-term treatment of bipolar disorder patients.
There are three types of medications that have been found to reduce the symptoms of bipolar disorder , which are mood stabilizers - antipsychotics and antidepressants.

Bipolar medication help in changing the chemicals in the brain, known as neurotransmitters. Lithium is amongst the most common, sold in the name of Carbolith, Duralith, Eskalith, Lithane, Lithizine, and Lithobid.

Why Lithium didn't gain popularity with patients:

  • Lithium does not show expected results in cases of multiple symptoms of manic episodes, as well as frequent cycling of bipolar disorder.
  • Lithium is not preferred by patients due to physical symptoms such as weight gain, tremor, nausea, and increased urination.
  • It also causes disorder to thyroid gland and the kidneys. Precaution needs to be taken in the consumption of lithium and additional antidepressants are prescribed to prevent switching to mania or rapid cycle.
  • Precautions include:
  • discontinuing usage may lead to relapse
  • to be used only in consultation with the doctor due to extreme side effects
  • blood tests need to be undertaken regularly to ensure serum sodium and thyroid levels


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