Patients with bipolar disorder cycle between mood extremes extreme depression and mania. There are no means of curing bipolar disorder, but various medications have been developed to manage the symptoms of bipolar disorder. Medication is used to minimize mood swings, the severity of symptoms and help patients maintain a normal mood. Lithium, anticonvulsants and antipsychotics are often prescribed; antidepressants should not be used, as they can cause a rapid mood shift from depression to mania.
Lithium is a mood stabilizer and the first approved medication for bipolar disorder. Lithium treats the symptoms of mania, but it can also manage depression symptoms. Most of the side effects of lithium are stomach distress, such as diarrhea, stomach pain and increased urination. Other side effects include weight gain, drowsiness, tremor, fatigue, nausea, vomiting and excessive thirst.
Anticonvulsants, like valproic acid, lamotrigine, topiratol and carbamazepine, are used as mood stabilizers; these medications are used when lithium is not effective or cannot be tolerated. Side effects from these medications include drowsiness, tremors, weight gain, diarrhea, dizziness and nausea. Lamotrigine may also cause skin rashes one which can be fatal.
Antipsychotics are another type of medication option for bipolar disorder, such as olanzapine, quetiapine, risperidone, ziprasidone and clozapine including others. Antipsychotics have side effects similar to other bipolar disorder medications, which are drowsiness and weight gain. Constipation, dry mouth, blurred vision, and sexual dysfunction may also occur. Many of these side effects are temporary, once the body adjusts to the medication they will go away.
Antipsychotics used to treat bipolar disorder, such as olanzapine, risperidone and quetiapine, may cause unusual or rapid heartbeats.
For a time one of the most commonly prescribed medication for bipolar treatment was an antipsychotic called quetiapine. Quetiapine, as with other antipsychotics, works by altering brain chemicals. Besides the treatment of bipolar disorder, it is used for schizophrenia and major depression,
Topiramate was the second most commonly prescribed medication for bipolar disorder. It can act as an anticonvulsant for epilepsy as well as a mood stabilizer for bipolar patients. Like other mood stabilizers, topiramate helps balance or minimize the highs and lows.
Lamotrigine is the third most often prescribed medication for bipolar treatment. It is similar to topiramate as both mood stabilizer and anticonvulsant medication. The medication lengthens the periods of cycles between depression and mania, and is used as a maintenance drug. Lamotrigine is more effective in the less serious, bipolar disorder II disorder.
The antipsychotic risperidone is highly used for bipolar disorder however; risperidone should not be prescribed for elderly dementia patients because of high mortality rates.
Divalproex sodium was available in both the immediate and extended release and was the third most popular prescription for bipolar treatment.
Medications prescribed for bipolar disorder patients also include the antipsychotics olanzapine and ziprasidone, and the antidepressant paroxetine.
These medications re fairly new and the information on the effectiveness on bipolar disorder are still not understood on how they work on the brain. The common side effects are still being discovered and they vary from person to person. Any concerns, if you are on one of these medications should be addressed to your doctor. Blood tests are necessary for some of them to lessen the risk of toxicity. Most of these medications have been proven to be beneficial for bipolar patients even with the risks of side effects.