The Lithium test contains 1 test with 1 biomarker.

Description: This test measures lithium levels in your blood’s serum.

Also Known As: Lithium blood test, lithium serum test, bipolor disorder medication test

Collection Method: Blood Draw

Specimen Type: Serum

Test Preparation: Collect just prior to next dose

Average Processing Time: 1 to 2 days

When is a Lithium test ordered?

When a person begins lithium treatment, a lot of lithium is ordered. After a person's blood concentrations have stabilized in the therapeutic range, a healthcare provider may perform lithium testing at regular intervals to ensure that drug levels remain stable.

When a person's illness does not appear to be responding to lithium, the test may be conducted to assess whether concentrations are too low, the drug is ineffective, and/or if the person is adhering to therapy. It may also be ordered if someone has a high level of side effects and/or symptoms that the healthcare practitioner feels are caused by toxicity.

What does a Lithium blood test check for?

Lithium is an antipsychotic medication used to treat bipolar illness. It is occasionally used to supplement an antidepressant that does not properly cure depression in other conditions. This test determines how much lithium is present in the blood.

Bipolar disorder is a mental illness characterized by episodes of sadness and mania that alternate. These time frames can range from a few days or weeks to months or years. Those who are affected by a depressive episode may feel gloomy, hopeless, and worthless, and lose interest in daily tasks. They may be tired but have trouble sleeping, lose or gain weight, have trouble concentrating, and have suicidal thoughts. Those who are experiencing a manic episode may feel euphoric, frustrated, have high energy and extravagant thoughts, make poor decisions, and engage in risky behaviors. Affected patients may experience mixed episodes that include elements of both mania and depression. Adults and children can both be affected by bipolar disorder.

Lithium is used to help people with bipolar disorder manage their mood fluctuations. It's commonly referred to as a "mood stabilizer," and it's sometimes prescribed for depressed people who aren't responding well to other treatments. Lithium is used less frequently to treat schizoaffective disorder and cluster headaches.

Lithium's influence on mood can take many weeks because it is a slow-acting medicine. The drug's dosage is changed until blood concentrations are within a therapeutic range—a blood level range that provides the desired effect and treats bipolar illness in an individual. The actual amount of substance required to achieve this constant state varies from person to person and is influenced by a person's age, general health, and other medications they are taking.

Because blood levels of lithium must be kept within a tight therapeutic range, they are checked on a frequent basis. If you take too little, the drug won't work; if you take too much, you can develop symptoms of lithium toxicity.

Lab tests often ordered with a Lithium test:

  • Drug Monitoring
  • Blood Urea Nitrogen (BUN)
  • Creatinine
  • Comprehensive Metabolic Panel (CMP)
  • TSH

Conditions where a Lithium test is recommended:

  • Bipolor Disorder

How does my health care provider use a Lithium test?

The lithium test is performed to check whether the medicine blood concentration is within the range that will appropriately treat an individual's bipolar disorder. When a person initially starts taking lithium, the test can be used to assess blood levels every few days to help modify the dose and attain the ideal blood level. It can also be used to monitor blood concentrations at regular intervals or as needed. If a person starts taking new medications, a doctor may perform one or more lithium tests to see if the new medications have any influence on lithium levels. If toxicity is suspected, lithium testing may be ordered.

What do my lithium test results mean?

Lithium's therapeutic range has been determined to be between 0.6 and 1.2 mmol/L. Most people respond to the medicine without experiencing toxicity within this range.

Individual responses and side effects depend on the individual. At the low end of the therapeutic spectrum, some patients with bipolar disorder may not receive adequate treatment. Others may encounter severe side effects at the therapeutic range's upper end. Patients should work very closely with their doctors to determine the dosage that is right for them.

When lithium results are in the healthy range and both the patient and their healthcare provider are comfortable that the person's bipolar disorder is being properly controlled, the dosage of lithium is considered acceptable, especially if the person is not suffering major adverse effects.

If the blood level is below the normal range, the patient is most likely not getting enough medication. It's possible that the dose is too high if levels are above the normal range and there are severe adverse effects at the current dose. A healthcare practitioner may alter the lithium dose in certain instances. Patients should not reduce or stop taking their medication without first discussing with their doctor, since this can exacerbate their bipolar symptoms. Dosage modifications and decisions must be made on a case-by-case basis.

We advise having your results reviewed by a licensed medical healthcare professional for proper interpretation of your results.

The following is a list of what is included in the item above. Click the test(s) below to view what biomarkers are measured along with an explanation of what the biomarker is measuring.


*Process times are an estimate and are not guaranteed. The lab may need additional time due to weather, holidays, confirmation/repeat testing, or equipment maintenance.

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