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Lithium - Side Effects, Precautions, and Contraindications

What side effects can Lithium cause?

The mentioned side effects generally affect up to 10% of patients.

  • Nausea, vomiting
    • Take this medication with or after food
    • Take simple meals and avoid rich or spicy foods
  • Thirst, dry mouth
    • Chew sugar-free gum, suck on sugar-free hard candies or ice chips, sip water regularly
  • Diarrhoea
    • Drink plenty of water to replace the loss of fluids
  • Headache
    • Speak to your doctor if it becomes bothersome
  • Fine hand movements that are difficult to control; joint or muscle pain
    • Speak to your doctor if it affects your daily life
  • Feeling tired or drowsy
    • Discuss with your doctor if you can take this medication at a different time of the day
    • Avoid driving or engaging in activities requiring concentration
  • Loss of appetite, bloating or stomach pain
    • Speak to your doctor if it becomes bothersome
  • Weight gain

Most of the side effects listed here will improve with time. Speak to your doctor if they continue, get worse or are affecting your daily life.

Rarely this medication may cause:

  • Ringing in the ears (symptoms of tinnitus)
  • Seizures (fits)
  • Urinating more often
  • Irregular heart beat

If the amount of Lithium in your body is too high, you may experience:

  • Blurred vision
  • Feeling sick, severe diarrhoea or vomiting
  • Muscle weakness
  • Confusion, clumsiness, dizziness, extreme tiredness, feeling shaky

The symptoms of a drug allergy include one or more of the following:

  • Swollen face/eyes/lips/tongue
  • Difficulty in breathing
  • Itchy skin rashes over your whole body

If you experience any of these side effects, you should stop your medication and inform your healthcare professional immediately.

Please also take note that not all possible side effects are listed above. If you have any concerns about your medication, please consult your doctor or pharmacist.

Before taking Lithium , what precautions must I follow?

Inform your healthcare professional if:

  • You are allergic to this medication or any of the other ingredients of this medication
  • You are pregnant, planning to become pregnant, or breastfeeding. If you are pregnant and/or breastfeeding, your doctor would have discussed the potential benefits and side-effects with you and should you have further questions or concerns, do consult your doctor.
  • You are taking any other medications including over-the-counter medications, supplements, traditional Chinese medicine and herbal remedies. Some of them may affect how this medication works or cause serious drug interactions.
  • You intend to start on a low salt diet as it may affect the way this medication works.
  • You have or have ever had:
    • Other drug allergies
    • Medical conditions such as:
      • Leukaemia, Psoriasis, Myasthenia Gravis (an autoimmune condition that affects the nerves and muscles), heart, kidney or thyroid disease
      • High or low blood pressure or low sodium levels (symptoms may include confusion, headache, nausea, vomiting, tiredness and cramps)

It is important to remain well hydrated while you are taking this medication. Drinking too much or too little water can affect the amount of Lithium in your body and may result in unpleasant effects.

  • Drink plenty of water when you exercise, especially in hot weather.
  • If you have an infection or illness that causes heavy sweating, vomiting or diarrhoea, consult a doctor and continue to drink plenty of water.
  • Keep all appointments with your doctor. Your doctor may order blood tests to make sure the amount of Lithium in your body is just right.

What food or medicine must I avoid when I take Lithium ?

Avoid drinking alcohol while taking this medication as it can cause excessive drowsiness.

Lithium - Additional Information

  • Updated on 10/31/2021 12:00:00 AM
  • Article contributed by PSS National Medication Information Workgroup PSS National Medication Information Workgroup
The information provided is not intended as medical advice. Terms of use. Information provided by SingHealth

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