Approved uses for lithium are concerned with controlling the symptoms of mania associated with bipolar disorder. It's important to note, however, that the drug is only used to manage the symptoms and is not a cure. In addition, lithium is not approved for use in children under the age of 12. Off-label uses include the treatment of depression, Graves' disease, and migraine headaches.
Lithium (Eskalith®, Eskalith CR®, Lithobid®) is a prescription medicine used to treat bipolar disorder. Specifically, it is approved to treat manic episodes, but not depressive episodes. It is also approved as a "maintenance treatment," which is a long-term treatment to help prevent episodes of mania or depression.
Bipolar disorder, also known as manic depression, is a serious mental illness that causes extreme shifts in mood, energy, and functioning. Currently, it is thought that bipolar disorder may be at least partially genetic (see Bipolar Causes). The condition is different from the normal ups and downs that everyone goes through: The symptoms are much more severe. Episodes of mania and depression typically recur throughout the affected person's lifespan. Between episodes, most people with bipolar disorder are free of symptoms (see Bipolar Disorder Symptoms). Effective treatment usually involves a combination of psychotherapy (see Bipolar Psychosocial Treatments) and bipolar medications.
Lithium is one of the oldest, most effective, and most affordable treatments available.