Lithium Test – Need, Results & Reference Range

Lithium test - Healthians
Contributed by – Rachana Arya

What is the Lithium test?

Lithium test examines the amount of lithium in the blood in order to determine if the drug concentrations are in the therapeutic range or require changes. It is usually prescribed while monitoring the treatment of a bipolar disorder. A Bipolar disorder is a mental condition characterized by discontinuous periods of depression and mania. Lithium is used as a mood alleviating drug. It interacts with different neurotransmitters and receptors and lowers the secretion of norepinephrine increasing serotonin synthesis.

Lithium quantities in blood levels must be maintained within a narrow therapeutic range. Excess of lithium leads to lithium toxicity and develops symptoms such as nausea, vomiting, confusion, tremors and with insufficient amounts the medication becomes ineffective.


Who should get the test?

Lithium is a type of medicine which is used as a mood stabilizer. Lithium can be taken by adults and children over the age of 12 years.

It should be taken on doctor’s advice by the people who suffer from mood disorders such as:

  • Mania (feeling extremely excited, overactive or unfocussed)
  • Hypo-mania (similar to mania but less severe)
  • Regular periods of depression where treatment with other medicines has not worked
  • Bipolar disorder, where your mood changes between feeling very high and very low
  • Lithium can also help reduce aggressive or self-harming behaviour


Lithium might not be suitable for some people. Inform the doctor in case of:

  • An allergic reaction
  • Heart disease
  • Severe kidney ailments
  • Untreated and underactive thyroid gland (hypothyroidism)
  • Low levels of sodium in the body
  • Addison’s disease which is a rare disorder of the adrenal glands
  • Brugada syndrome, a condition that affects the heart
  • you need to have surgery in hospital
  • Pregnancy or breastfeeding


Why is the lithium test needed?

A Lithium test is usually recommended for the assessment of lithium levels in the blood. It helps treat mania i.e. high mood with over-reactivity coupled with racing thoughts and agitation. It helps to avert the reappearance of severe mood swings post-acute episode of bipolar illness. It also boosts the effect of antidepressants.

  • Signs frequently observed in such situations are:
  • Depression
  • Racing thoughts
  • Agitation
  • Severe mood swings where the mood is excessively high on some occasions and very low on others
  • Irritable
  • High energy and grandiose ideas
  • Poor judgment
  • Risky behaviour
  • Trouble sleeping
  • Experience weight loss or gain
  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Thoughts of suicide
  • Lose interest in daily activities
  • Feeling of sadness and hopelessness


What does the lithium test result mean?

Reference Range (mEq/L) Interpretation
Above 1.5 Potentially Toxic
Above 2.0 Severely Toxic
0.6 to 1.2 Therapeutic range


How is the test done?

A Lithium test is similar to a blood test. The test only takes a few minutes. It is either conducted at a clinic or in a lab. No preparations are needed for it.  Blood is drawn from the vein of the arm. There’s very little pain. You might only feel a slight pinch when the needle goes in and some mild soreness afterwards. You can expect results within twenty-four to thirty-six hours.


Take the lithium test now 

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