For decades, the use of lithium in medical treatments was banned in the United States until the 1970s when doctors concluded that it could be used to treat bipolar disorder. However, patients should recognize that lithium can lead to serious side effects and death in some cases.
When lithium is prescribed, monitoring by your physician will help reduce the risk of an overdose, but some hospitals and doctors fail to adequately monitor their patients. This failure can lead to patients suffering permanent physical and psychological damage.
Why is Lithium Used?
Lithium is a serotonin reuptake inhibitor (SSRI), which means that it helps regulate the amount of serotonin in the brain. While it is not known exactly how lithium affects the brain, it has been shown to be useful in controlling depressive states and suicidal thoughts that present themselves in bipolar patients.
Lithium takes a few weeks of treatment to become effective in combating bipolar disorder, this is also when lithium intake monitoring is most important. Lithium poisoning is mainly categorized in two different ways; acute toxicity, and chronic toxicity.
Acute toxicity is when a patient takes too much lithium all at once, and causes symptoms like:
- Abdominal pain
- Tremors and lack of coordination
- Lack of responsiveness
- Uncontrollable eye movement
- Muscle twitches
- Slurred speech
Chronic toxicity is when a patient takes a little too much lithium over a long period of time. Symptoms of chronic lithium toxicity are:
- Memory loss
- Kidney failure
- Movement disorders
- Increased reflexes
- Slurred speech
If a patient suffers from lithium toxicity for too long, one or more of the symptoms listed above may become permanent. These symptoms are debilitating on their own, and could cause severe psychological trauma, loss of employment and chronic pain.
Lithium overdosing can have life-altering consequences, and all cases of lithium toxicity are preventable. Hospitals and doctors have liability insurance to cover damages caused by medical negligence. However, the insurance companies typically contest medical malpractice claims and fight to minimize any payout. A lithium injury lawyer will be able to guide you through the complicated process of litigation and compensation for your injuries.