Lithium is a soft, silvery-white alkali metal. Like all of the alkali metals, it is highly reactive. Most people are aware of lithium's industrial uses in batteries or as a flux additive for other metals, but fewer know about its use as a medication. Lithium is one of the more common treatments for bipolar disorder, but due to its narrow therapeutic index, even slight miscalculations in dosage, or unexpected complications in the patient's body, can lead to lithium poisoning.
Most cases of lithium poisoning are the result of accidental overdoses during chronic therapy, and two events generally precipitate them. The first is volume depletion. Extracellular fluid describes any fluid outside the cells. When extracellular fluid levels drop as a result of salt and fluid losses consistently exceeding intake, an individual develops volume depletion. The second event is renal insufficiency, which refers to kidneys that, while functioning, do not operate as well as they should.
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