I realised today that I havn’t spoken on my blog yet about one aspect of taking Lithium as medication for bipolar disorder. Blood tests, levels and toxicity.
Now I have been having my blood tested every few months since I was about 17. This is so they could check that my organs were functioning OK on my last mood stabilising medication, Carbamazepine (that I was on from aged 16-25). Carbamazepine is quite a mild drug and thankfully all was alright and I had very few side effects on it (other than the mental effects of depression because it didnt work over time).
When I left hospital as an inpatient in 2014 and began taking Lithium carbonate, my Drs on the day ward had to start me off slowly and build up the level of Lithium in my blood carefully week by week. This is because Lithium is an extremely strong medication and if there is too much Lithium in the blood stream, the body goes into a ‘toxic’ state and you feel really unwell and have to go to hospital for the physical side effects.
So over a period of about 2 months, my psychiatrist on the day ward slowly and steadily increased my Lithium dosage to a therapeutic dose. I also take Quetaipine, which is another mood stabiliser but the interaction means that in the worst cases, you can have heart problems. Thankfully, I have not had heart issues but I do have to go to have occasional ECGs at the hospital to check my heart rate etc.
Anyway, this morning I had a blood test so that the Drs could test my Lithium level (so its not too low or high in blood), kidney function and thyroid function. Lithium can effect both kidneys and thyroid negatively, due to the fact it is a strong salt, so its so important to have these tests.
I feel extremely lucky to have the NHS and not to have to pay for my treatment. Blood tests aren’t fun but thankfully as they are a little needle, I am now used to them.
Oh such fun 🙂