If tests have shown that you do have bipolar disorder, your doctor will administer medical treatment to help you deal with this illness.
One of the most frequent drugs used to treat bipolar disorder is lithium. This is because it evens out mood swings in both directions. Also, it serves as maintenance treatment in patients which is why it is used for weeks or even months until the mood is balanced.
In most cases, antipsychotic medications are used in the first few days of treatment until lithium is able to take effect. In fact, some of the newer antipsychotic drugs are being used for a longer period of time if this has been proven in helping the patient.
Lithium can even be added with other drugs to make it effective. A good example is an antidepressant but this must be given carefully because an overdose could switch into mania in some individuals.
But lithium does not work the same for everyone. Some people who have used it once no longer experience these episodes while others will have more episodes and need to use this to keep their moods stable. Some will not even see any improvement after taking lithium so you will never know until you try.
Those who will be taking lithium have to take regular blood tests. This is because if this is too little, the medicine may not work and if it is too much, the patient will suffer from its side effects.
These side effects include drowsiness, fatigue, hand tremors, increased thirst and urination, nausea and weight gain. These will only occur for a short while but can be avoided with proper diet and by drinking low or no calorie refreshments.
Lithium can also be used to treat children with bipolar disorder so parents should be prepared since they will probably wet the bed more often. However, this can be managed by simply lowering the dosage.
Another side effect to using lithium is that it can cause changes in the thyroid gland. This can be restored with thyroid hormones therapy.
But what is Lithium? Basically, it is a salt that is able to lower the levels of sodium in a person’s body. If the person experiences a diarrhea, fever, heavy sweating or vomiting, the doctor must be informed immediately so the dosage can be changed.
Doctors will not prescribe lithium to patients who have had brain damage, epilepsy, kidney, heart or thyroid disorders. Pregnant women are also prohibited from taking it since this could cause problems for the baby.
Patients that will be taking lithium should not combine this with other medications. They should also avoid drinking coffee or anything that has caffeine because this too may cause confusion, drowsiness, muscle twitching, nausea, irregular heartbeat, seizures and vomiting.
When the person is taking lithium, it is best to inform other doctors as well like the dentist so they are aware that it is used to treat a certain medical condition.
In general, lithium is safe to use as long as it is generally monitored. If you can’t take it, perhaps you can use anticonvulsant drugs.
One anticonvulsant drug frequently used to treat bipolar disorder is Valproic acid. It is very effective in treating rapid cycling.
Just like lithium, though, there are side effects and these include anxiety, confusion, double vision and headaches. It has been known to cause liver problems, which is why liver function tests are conducted regularly before and after therapy.
Other examples of anticonvulsant drugs include carbamazepine (Tegretol), lamotrigine (Lamictal), gabapentin (Neurontin), and topiramate (Topamax) that are used in treating short term mania.
If things are getting out of hand, the doctor may recommend antipsychotic drugs. The duration of the medication will depend on the patient so it may last for the short or long term.
Most patients who have bipolar disorder use more than one medication and this must be taken even when the symptoms subside. After all, if it happens once, this may recur again in the future and also because there is no cure for bipolar disorder. The best that anyone can do right now is take control of it so that person will still be able to live a normal life.