Since the 1970s, lithium was already heavily used in the field of medicine. It was originally prescribed as a treatment for various illness and conditions including gout, neutropenia, depression and cluster headache prophylaxis. However, the use of lithium was prohibited because of its negative side effects. It was banned by the US Drug and Food Administration in the 1940s because of the increasing number of fatalities. The ban was lifted in 1970 and until today, lithium is continuously being used to treat bipolar disorders. Lithium toxicity is very common since its users are prone to experience a high risk of overdose. Today, we’ll discuss the early signs of lithium toxicity to provide you with relevant information regarding its side effects.
Three early signs of lithium toxicity you need to know
1. Acute poisoning
Patients who experience acute lithium poisoning normally do not experience and tissue related symptoms. Instead, they experience predominantly gastrointestinal related problems such as vomiting, nausea, diarrhea, and cramps. If acute poisoning isn’t treated immediately, it can progress into more serious conditions which involve neuromuscular signs. This includes dystonia, tremulousness, ataxia and hyperreflexia. Another condition which may develop from acute poisoning is cardiac dysrhythmias which are an abnormality in physiological rhythm. It is a change in the regular beating of the heart.
2. Chronic poisoning
Patients who experience chronic poisoning have managed to accumulate a large amount of lithium inside their body. This condition is very difficult to treat. Its symptoms are usually related to disorders of the nervous system. The mental status of patients are greatly affected, and it’s often altered because of lithium overdose. It can quickly turn into more serious conditions such a seizures or comas especially if a patient is given an unrecognized diagnosis. There are plenty of patients who have been severely poisoned by lithium. They start to develop irreversible symptoms such as sensorimotor peripheral neuropathy, cerebellar dysfunction, and cognitive impairment.
3. Early signs of lithium toxicity
The second most common endocrine-related disorder which patients with lithium toxicity experience is hypothyroidism. Lithium is absorbed by thyroid cells which block the thyroid hormone called thyroglobulin from being released. It hinders adenylate cyclase and as a result, thyroid stimulating hormones are prevented from activating thyroid cells. A common complication which is related to the above mentioned early signs of lithium poisoning is myxedema coma which is a state of decompensated thyroid. Patients will also experience restlessness in muscle movements, hallucinations, discoloration in the fingers and toes, vision problems, uneven heartbeats, extreme thirst, seizures, and high fevers.