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Kidney Diseases

Lithium and Kidney Health

08/25/2009

Question:

I am having first visit with nephrologist in a month. My doctor has mentioned possibility of switching me from lithium to another medication to prevent further kidney damage (so far I am not real bad). Question: I take 900 mg lithium daily in 3 pills, all one dose at bedtime. Will it help kidneys to take these 3 pills apart? One hour apart or more? Thank you.

Answer:

Taking lithium in several daily doses will not make a difference, as far as I can tell.  In fact there is some evidence (not conclusive) that it's better to take the lithium all in one daily dose.  The main factor in lithium-induced kidney damage is the length of time that a person has been taking lithium. 

The damage that occurs tends to be very slowly progressive and generally mild, as it sounds like yours is.  Stopping the lithium will not reverse the damage, but it will probably keep it from getting worse.  So your doctor is wise to think about changing your meds, especially if you are older (as in over 60) and have already been on lithium for 10 or more years. 

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Response by:

Mildred   Lam, MD Mildred Lam, MD
Associate Professor of Medicine
School of Medicine
Case Western Reserve University