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It is unclear how lithium prevents cluster headaches. It may affect the function of the hypothalamus, a part of the brain that regulates sleep cycle, body temperature, and pituitary gland activity. Some experts believe that altered function of the hypothalamus is the cause of cluster headaches.
Lithium may be used to prevent occasional and chronic cluster headaches. Lithium costs less than some other medicines.
Lithium works best to prevent chronic cluster headaches.1 It is sometimes combined with other medicines, such as corticosteroids or ergotamine, for more effective treatment.
All medicines have side effects. But many people don't feel the side effects, or they are able to deal with them. Ask your pharmacist about the side effects of each medicine you take. Side effects are also listed in the information that comes with your medicine.
Here are some important things to think about:
Call 911 or other emergency services right away if you have:
Call your doctor right away if you have:
Common side effects of this medicine include:
See Drug Reference for a full list of side effects. (Drug Reference is not available in all systems.)
If you are taking lithium, you will need to have regular blood tests to monitor the level of lithium in your blood. You may also need to have your thyroid gland and kidney function watched during long-term use of lithium.
Keep the amount of sodium you get in your diet the same. Your doctor will check the sodium levels in your blood to make sure the lithium does not cause a side effect called hyponatremia (low sodium).
Medicine is one of the many tools your doctor has to treat a health problem. Taking medicine as your doctor suggests will improve your health and may prevent future problems. If you don't take your medicines properly, you may be putting your health (and perhaps your life) at risk.
There are many reasons why people have trouble taking their medicine. But in most cases, there is something you can do. For suggestions on how to work around common problems, see the topic Taking Medicines as Prescribed.
Women who use this medicine during pregnancy have a slightly higher chance of having a baby with birth defects. If you are pregnant or planning to get pregnant, you and your doctor must weigh the risks of using this medicine against the risks of not treating your condition.
Follow-up care is a key part of your treatment and safety. Be sure to make and go to all appointments, and call your doctor if you are having problems. It's also a good idea to know your test results and keep a list of the medicines you take.
Last Revised: May 14, 2012
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