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

2-minute read

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. Lithium can also cause drowsiness.

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 brain 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.

Learn more here about the development and quality assurance of healthdirect content.

Last reviewed: February 2018

Back To Top

Need more information?

These trusted information partners have more on this topic.

Top results

Lithium - Lab Tests Online AU

Why and when to get tested for lithium and what do the test results mean

Read more on Lab Tests Online AU website

Effects Of Smoking, Second Hand Smoke & How To Quit | Your Room

Tobacco is a legal drug which has many short and long term side effects. Read about the effects of smoking, breathing second hand smoke and how to quit.

Read more on NSW Health website

Staying on course with bipolar disorder treatments

The management of bipolar disorder is not always a straightforward task. Often people do not take their medication as prescribed – they may either take a lower dose than prescribed or cease one or all medications entirely.

Read more on Black Dog Institute website

Cystitis: self-care -

Cystitis is an infection of the urinary tract which causes the bladder to become inflamed. Find out what products are available for cystitis.

Read more on myDr website

Tricyclic antidepressants -

Tricyclic antidepressants (also called tricyclics or TCAs) are named for their chemical structure (3 rings). Theycan be used totreat depression, anxiety disorders and chronic pain.

Read more on myDr website

Treatments for bipolar disorder

Bipolar disorder is a biological condition with a strong genetic component which requires long-term management.

Read more on Black Dog Institute website

Medications and breastfeeding

While breastfeeding you may need to take medication for a few days to treat an acute illness, or on an ongoing basis to treat a chronic illness.

Read more on WA Health website

Myasthenia gravis -

Myasthenia gravis is a chronic muscle disease that produces weakness and abnormally rapid fatigue of the voluntary muscles.

Read more on myDr website

Psoriasis -

Psoriasis causes red, scaly patches of skin that may be sore or itchy. The patches mostly affect the knees, elbows, lower back and scalp.

Read more on myDr website

Treatments for depression

A large number of different treatments are available for depression and new treatments (particularly medications) regularly appear.

Read more on Black Dog Institute website

Healthdirect 24hr 7 days a week hotline

24 hour health advice 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 and advice

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