Lithium tremor revisited: pathophysiology and treatment

Authors

  • J. H. Baek,

    1. Bipolar Clinic and Research Program, Massachusetts General Hospital, Boston, MA, USA
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  • G. Kinrys,

    1. Bipolar Clinic and Research Program, Massachusetts General Hospital, Boston, MA, USA
    2. Department of Psychiatry, Harvard Medical School, Boston, MA, USA
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  • A. A. Nierenberg

    Corresponding author
    1. Bipolar Clinic and Research Program, Massachusetts General Hospital, Boston, MA, USA
    2. Department of Psychiatry, Harvard Medical School, Boston, MA, USA
    • Andrew A. Nierenberg, Bipolar Clinic and Research Program, Massachusetts General Hospital, Department of Psychiatry, Harvard Medical School, 50 Staniford St., Ste 580, Boston MA 02114, USA.

      E-mail: anierenberg@partners.org

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Abstract

Objective

Tremor occurs frequently as a side-effect of lithium, and it is, however, easily overlooked in the clinical setting. In this article, we attempt to review the pathophysiology and the clinical approach of lithium tremor.

Method

We searched the Pubmed and Cochrane Library for relevant articles up to the year 2012. Sixty-four articles including 10 review papers, 3 clinical trials, and 12 case reports were reviewed.

Results

Lithium tremor is classified as a postural tremor and subcategorized as an exaggerated physiologic tremor. Differential diagnosis includes metabolic abnormalities, benign essential tremor, Parkinson's disease, and lithium toxicity. Various methods of evaluating lithium tremor and treatment options are discussed.

Conclusion

When lithium tremor has developed, thorough history taking, physical examination, and blood examination including serum lithium level are needed. Pharmacotherapy is indicated only in patients with disabling tremor.

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