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Please share your experiences on Lithium


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My moods have been bouncing around badly over the past few weeks and my pdoc has informed me that my BP is no longer being held in check by my current cocktail (Trileptal, Lamictal, Seroquel, Wellbutrin). I'm now supposed to be titrating off Trileptal and starting Lithium. I had one very brief experience with this in the past, and I honestly can't remember why I refused to carry on taking it. There have been so many meds and combinations since. I'm not thrilled about ditching the Trileptal b/c it was the first drug to keep my upswings in check. But she's focusing on this because I'm heading straight into mania right now and it doesn't seem to be doing its job anymore.

I'm NOT happy about starting Lithium. I know we shouldn't hone in on all the negative side effects that are reported, but I'm fixated on them and can't move forward. I haven't filled my script yet and I'm very reluctant to do so. Please could anyone who's had success with the med let me know how it worked for them?

Thanks v.much

M

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It made me pee more often and drink more water for a while, then my body adjusted. No other side effects. On the negative side, I'm not convinced it's doing anything for me that the lamictal and seroquel aren't doing, although it may have slowed down my cycling. But it doesn't appear to be doing anything bad.

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Mia it has agreed with me quite well except lately I was waking with a very painful urgent bladder, followed by diarreah lasting the first couple of hours of my day. BUT, I changed the way I take it. 900 mg is 3 pills, so rather than a big dose at bedtime, I am taking it 3 times a day and those side effects are gone.

So, really it's not so bad for me. I haven't had any other side effects.

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I like it. It wasn't our drug of first choice because lith is meant to be bad for rapid cyclers and I am one. But it's worked. I actually achieved stability for 8 weeks while taking this drug, which is a miracle for me. I'm currently crazy again, but not as crazy as I would be if I were off it. Good stuff.

Oh, and no side effects either.

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It's been good for anger, agitation, moderate (hypo)mania -- calms me down and gets me sleeping again right away. For the full-blown thing, I've needed to add Zyprexa. Side effects are minor...a little rounder through the middle (but no signif. weight gain); the rest went away.

Good luck with it,

SG

900 mg/blood level .7

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Here are my experiences from taking Lithium:

The Good- i felt mood stability like never before (it was in combination with lamictal)

The Bad- major case of stupid. so stupid that i went to a job interview on the wrong day, and then when i was in the make-up interview, totally forgot what i had done in my career and started just reading my resume (good thing i could still read), then i got lost on the (easy) way home

so, that's what i remember (having been stupid at the time) from taking lithium. i hope it helps. it will control your mood for sure. but you might be stupid. oh, and i lost some hair, but i lose hair on all meds.

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No felt physical side effects apart from slight tremor. No acne, no direct weight gain (minor loss in first month or two, actually), no hair loss, no upset stomach, no whatever. I titrated from 300 to 900 with divided doses, then started taking it all at bedtime.

I've rarely been hypomanic since starting lithium eighteen months ago. It has not helped my depression.

Bad side: lithium killed my thyroid. Okay, that's a dramatic way of putting it, but I became insufferably tired, began sleeping up to sixteen hours a day, couldn't function in school, and gained a metric fuckton of weight. I've lost nearly thirty pounds from my high weight, fourteen of which were lost after starting Synthroid at the beginning of the summer. I LOVE Synthroid.

Synthroid or no, I'm having minor issues with vocabulary recall. For other people this is nothing, but for me it is huge. The ability to use words is at the center of my life. The damage isn't massive, but it bugs the fuck out of me.

One rare side effect of lithium that often gets written off is minor hallucinations, sometimes called optical illusions or persistence of vision. These tend to affect peripheral vision and are transient. It's common enough that I've heard many accounts, but infrequent enough that it barely appears in even the most esoteric of the recognized medical literature. To many practitioners, it doesn't exist. If you start seeing bugs scrabbling around out of the corner of your eye that aren't real? Don't let your doctor shrug it off. Demand understanding.

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It's good that it didn't make me go super-cycling like depakote did. That was bad. Landed me in the hospital. haha

Started me off real slow on it so I didn't have any bad side effects - 300mg a day, then added one pill at a time so now I'm taking four a day, whoo hoo.

Made me thirsty at first, but everyone should drink more water, so that's a good thing.

But also made me gain 22lbs. I'm taking a diuretic (otc) right now to try and counter that, but I was just reading one of the infos stickied, and it says that it should be with caution that I take them. Anyway, watch the scale and if there's any fluxuation talk to your doctor about that.

I'm real good on lithium though. My manics are really weird (according to my pdoc) and I'll have one every day or two days. I can usually control them to where I'm safe, but yesterday I forgot my morning lithium and by 2pm I was bouncing off the walls, talking a mile a minute.

anyway, I'm rambling. Make sure your doc orders the lab tests at one and three weeks to monitor liver and kidney function, because lithium can interfere with those.

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Lithium made me pee more and drink more in the first couple weeks. Slight tremor in the first month or so that also comes on now if I've had too little sleep, too much exertion, or too much coffee. I had a brief bout with rather startling hair loss but it's kind of shady as to what exactly caused it. I have some concentration issues that my pdoc thinks might be improved by a slight reduction in my dose.

But it's definitely helping. It's the biggest agent in my mood stabilization and I'm very happy with it. Much better than my experience with Depakote, which made me fat, stupid, and crazy.

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  • 1 month later...

I don't like it anymore. Those side effects I listed above returned and I am only taking 600 mg now. Even on 600 mg I can't stand it. I'm telling my pdoc on monday that I want to quit.

Boz-pot good luck. Don't be scared. Even if you have side effects, they are not life threatening and many have no side effects at all and take it for decades.

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Thanks everyone.

It's not that I'm scared because I'm taking what you might call 'The Big L' but I'm worried about the thyroid problems (my mother has a slightly underactive thyroid, so perhaps there's a bigger chance of that due to genetics) and I've already lost my hair once. Having said that I went completely bald due to chemotherapy - I'm assuming none of you have lost all your hair.

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Just took it and my head hasn't fallen off, so that's a positive step! ;)

It irritates me though that the pharmacy people didn't include an information leaflet with the pills. I only had seven, but you'd have thought that seeing as I'd never had it prescribed before. I know what the general side effects are but it would have been nice to be able to read about it anyway.

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I had my blood levels checked this week and they came back at just 0.56 on 800mg of lith. Problem is that my fingers and ankles swelled up incredibly, so the pdoc told me to drop the dose to 600mg. I'm not really sure what she's going to suggest next - I see her again on Monday.

PS I have NEVER spent as much time on the toilet as I have since starting lithium.

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Mia it has agreed with me quite well except lately I was waking with a very painful urgent bladder, followed by diarreah lasting the first couple of hours of my day. BUT, I changed the way I take it. 900 mg is 3 pills, so rather than a big dose at bedtime, I am taking it 3 times a day and those side effects are gone.

So, really it's not so bad for me. I haven't had any other side effects.

You know what Dee? I might just start taking 250mg of lithium in the morn, and the 450mg at night, to avoid the diarroah. So obvious an idea, but I haven't thought about it. Maybe because I worry I'll get drowsy throughout the day. But I'll try that.

Thanking you!

MIAB: I have been on lithium for about 7-8 years now I think. I've never really been a fan, because of the side effects, but I know it's still doing me some good. If I drop the dose too low I notice a change in mood. But the typical side effects everyone seems to have touched on here, ie. getting thirsty, tremor. I got quite bloated on it at first. And food started tasting different. Side effects can change over time with all of these meds of course. But it's worth a shot. Some people think it's the best thing for bipolar, and have little trouble with it. And yes, remind your shrink to get blood tests to check your levels and kidney and thyroid function. My shrink has a bad memory for these thing, but apart from that she's bloody good at her job.

TC

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the lithium did really well as an adjunct for depression- though it made me a zombie at first. recently i had a mixed episode and increased it a lot. the thing is i already had the thyroid problem and stomach problems ( both run in my family) so i am baffled as to how to deal with the total fatigue and exhuastion and the unpredictable intestinal distress. Anybody have any coping methods?

any way - in terms of my mood- has been amazing- no more of the horrendous mixed symptoms and i've definately evened out considerably.

my pdoc told me the extra water recommended is because longterm the lithium can cause kidney problems- unless i can't quench it i'm grateful for the thirst because it makes me drink.

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well, i have no idea what lithium has done for me. started it with zyprexa. weight gain. zyprexa? lithium? i definitely have the stupids, could be lithium (off zyprexa-zombie) personality still intact, just harder to speak.

i think it made my nails grow. never in my life have i had such great luck at growing out my nails!

think it made my hair coarser. harder to make straight.

definitely thirsty. i crave sodas, so bad! try to drink water.

now i pee in middle of night. should try not drinking after 8pm or something.

as far as tiredness, have always been "lazy"

oh, the diarrea thing i have not associated with lithium, but will think now.

definitely tremors. pain. noticeable esp when try to eat.

good luck to you! when it works, it really works!

good thoughts to you,

kathy

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  • 4 weeks later...

I pretty new to lithium, a little over a month. So far I am super pleased with it, I'm not depressed or manic - just tired and stupid. Initially I had stomach issues and swelling but it passed after one week; same thing several weeks ago when I changed my dose from 600mg to 900mg.

Now for some reason I'm not sleeping much at all. I can't get past 3 or 4hrs per night. I used take Tylenol PMs a few times a week to make me sleep and function like the 'normal' people. I have always been a night owl, but at least I could sleep more than 4 hrs at time to make up for lost nights. The wierd thing is I am more tired than before lithium, I don't sleep, but I'm a hell of a lot more active. I want to get out and do things even though I am sleep deprived and fucking stupid, it'sstill much better than being depressed for no reason!. What a great AD! And surprisling I'm not manic after such little sleep?? Has anyone has had this problem? Any sleeping aid suggestions? I aksed my dr for a sleeping pill and he gave me another anti-depressant without telling me. I looked it up after I didn't sleep a single hr the night before. I need a new Dr. ..Grrr....

I don't know what to take for headaches either. My dr said Tylenol is fine, internet says otherwise? Is it ok taking it several times a week? or not at all? What do you take for headaches? I can't take aspirin.

Thanks, Oceangirl

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seachelle,

You may in fact be manic/hypomanic, but the lithium is keeping you from going thru the roof like before. The mood stabilizers can't completely eliminated mania or depression, but they smooth out the highs and lows, and make the cycle time longer.

Please don't take Tylenol PM, for a sleep aid. The active ingredient is the same as Benadryl, which you can purchase generic as diphenhydramine for pennies. Tylenol, acetaminophen, is a known liver toxin, and studies are increasingly showing that even regular use within dosing guidelines can cause permanent damage.

a.m.

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