-- Question: How does lithium work as a treatment for bipolar disorder, and how does fluid intake affect lithium levels in my body?
Answer: Lithium is a naturally occurring salt that has mood stabilizing effects in the treatment of bipolar disorder. It's most effective for the mania of bipolar disorder that can also prevent the depression. However, it takes a while for lithium to become effective.
Because lithium is a salt, it's dissolved in the body of water. Now if the person's dehydrated or if they take medications that reduce the body water, then the lithium levels can go up. So it's important that the amount of lithium in a person's body be monitored by a simple blood test. Typically the blood test is drawn 12 hours after the last dose of lithium.
And with the blood level, one can determine whether there's too little, too much, or just the right amount of lithium in the patient's blood stream. That just-the-right amount tells the person they're in the therapeutic level. And the therapeutic level is important, because below the therapeutic level, the person might have a relapse of the disorder; above the therapeutic level they can experience side effects.