Healthdirect Free Australian health advice you can count on.

Medical problem? Call 1800 022 222. If you need urgent medical help, call triple zero immediately

healthdirect Australia is a free service where you can talk to a nurse or doctor who can help you know what to do.

beginning of content

Lithium side effects

Short-term side effects of lithium

You may have some short-term side effects when starting treatment with lithium or changing dose.

Short-term side effects are usually mild, however the benefit of lithium is that it helps reduce the frequency and severity of symptoms of certain mental illnesses.

Short-term sides effects can include:

These side effects usually fade away over a few days. If side effects continue or are worrying you, you should see your doctor. If they suddenly get worse, it may be a sign of too much lithium in the body (lithium toxicity). If this happens, call your doctor immediately.

Search for a doctor in your location.

Long-term side effects of lithium

If you take lithium for long periods, there is a chance of side effects. For example, it can affect your kidneys and your thyroid.

Your doctor will need to take blood tests regularly to monitor how much lithium is in your blood. Your doctor will also need to measure the function of your kidney, your thyroid gland and your parathyroid gland to watch out for side effects. Some people who take lithium for long periods gain weight. A healthy diet and regular exercise can help you keep your weight at the right level. You can talk to your doctor about managing your weight.

Women who take lithium are usually advised to use other medicines while pregnant.

Lithium toxicity

You can develop lithium toxicity suddenly if you take too many tablets at once or combine it with certain other medicines. If you are on a steady dose of lithium, you may get chronic lithium toxicity due to a reduction in kidney function. People with acute lithium toxicity feel nausea, vomiting, and diarrhoea. If it continues, they could also become confused and have trouble walking.

People with chronic lithium toxicity may have neurological symptoms such as sluggishness, difficulty walking, confusion, agitation or even seizures.

If you think you or someone you care for may have lithium toxicity, it's important to talk to a doctor immediately.

See healthdirect's medicines section for more information about lithium.

Last reviewed: January 2016

Need more information?

These trusted information partners have more on this topic.

Found 18959 results

Impetigo -

Impetigo - sometimes called school sores - is a very contagious skin infection. It is most common in children and infants and causes sores, especially on the face.

Read more on myDr website

Breasts: inside women's breasts -

An internal view shows that the breast is made up of fat, nipple, glands and a network of ducts.

Read more on myDr website

Varicose veins -

Varicose veins (twisted, swollen veins) in the legs are a common problem. Find out about the causes, symptoms and treatment for varicose veins.

Read more on myDr website

Listeria risk in pregnancy -

Listeria bacteria can cause serious problems during pregnancy. Listeria can be transmitted by eating contaminated food, but there are steps you can take to avoid infection.

Read more on myDr website

Malaria precautions while pregnant or breast feeding -

Malaria infection in pregnant women may be more severe than in non-pregnant women. Find out what precautions need to be taken for travel.

Read more on myDr website

Physical activity in children and teenagers -

Get the low down on why physical activity is so important for children and teenagers.

Read more on myDr website

Ultrasound -

Ultrasound is a way of taking a look at the unborn baby without using potentially harmful X-rays.

Read more on myDr website

Head lice -

Head lice (or nits), which live and breed in hair or on the scalp, can be treated by wet combing with a conditioner or with various shampoos and lotions.

Read more on myDr website

Ovulation testing -

Find out how ovulation tests can help you find your most fertile days and increase your chances of getting pregnant.

Read more on myDr website

Childhood rashes -

Distinguish between the childhood rashes of rubella (German measles), measles, chickenpox and fifth disease ('slapped cheek' disease).

Read more on myDr website

Healthdirect 24hr 7 days a week hotline

24 hour health advice and information you can count on

1800 022 222

Government Accredited with over 140 information partners

We are a government-funded service, providing quality, approved health information

Australian Government, health department logo ACT Government logo New South Wales government, health department logo Northen Territory Government logo Government of South Australia, health department logo Tasmanian government logo Government of Western Australia, health department logo