-- Randy Dotinga
THURSDAY, Jan. 19 (HealthDay News) -- A new medical review finds
that lithium, a common treatment for bipolar disorder, can lead to
weight gain and causes high rates of abnormalities in the thyroid
and parathyroid glands.
But the researchers found few signs of a link to skin problems
or hair loss, and a suspected connection to birth defects hasn't
been proven, according to the report published in the Jan. 20
online edition of
Overall, the findings reaffirm lithium's role as "a treatment of
choice for bipolar disorder," two doctors wrote in an accompanying
While lithium is less popular than it was in the 1970s and '80s
as a treatment for bipolar disorder, it's probably the most
effective available mood stabilizer, said Dr. Bryan Bruno, acting
chairman of the department of psychiatry at Lenox Hill Hospital in
New York City, who was not involved with the review but is familiar
with the findings.
"It remains very beneficial, and it's still a first-line agent for bipolar disorder," Bruno said.
But lithium has a variety of possible side effects, noted the
authors of the review, led by Dr. John Geddes of the University of
Oxford, Warneford Hospital in Oxford, England. Their analysis
included 385 studies.
The review found that lithium can cause weight gain, slightly
hinder the kidneys' ability to concentrate urine, and cause
increased activity of the thyroid and parathyroid glands.
Geddes and his colleagues suggest that doctors talk about the
possible side effects with patients and add a blood calcium test to
the testing regimen to check for possible hyperparathyroidism.
Bruno said the information about hyperparathyroidism is new, and
added that he's likely to order the relevant test more often.
Dr. Michael Berk, a professor of psychiatry at Deakin University
in Australia and a co-author of an accompanying commentary in the
journal, said that lithium "is still widely used, but perhaps not
as widely used as it should be."
Commenting on the review, he stated: "While lithium has
potential side effects, these can be managed by understanding and
anticipating them, in order to maximize the benefits and minimize
For more about
lithium, visit the National Alliance on Mental Illness.
Please be aware that this information is provided to supplement the care provided by your physician. It is neither intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice. CALL YOUR HEALTHCARE PROVIDER IMMEDIATELY IF YOU THINK YOU MAY HAVE A MEDICAL EMERGENCY. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider prior to starting any new treatment or with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.
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