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UIC researchers evaluate lithium for pediatric bipolar disorder

Researchers at the University of Illinois at Chicago are participating in a national study to evaluate lithium for the treatment of bipolar disorder in children and adolescents.

"Lithium is the prototype mood stabilizer for treating adult bipolar disorder, but it is not FDA-approved for use in kids younger than 13," said Mani Pavuluri, director of the Pediatric Mood Disorders Clinic at UIC's Institute for Juvenile Research. "We do not have a perfect drug that cures all aspects of bipolar disorder, but knowing more about lithium -- and how it affects children -- may bring us closer to managing this devastating disorder."

Results from the Collaborative Lithium Trials will provide the first comprehensive analysis of lithium treatment for pediatric bipolar disorder, according to Pavuluri.

UIC researchers are recruiting patients between 7 and 17 with bipolar disorder. The study will evaluate medication dosage strategies, drug efficacy, and short- and long-term safety and tolerability.

Pediatric bipolar disorder, also known as manic depressive disorder, is characterized by extreme and unusual changes in mood, ranging from mania to depression. Symptoms of mania can include extreme or persistent euphoria or irritability, inflated self-esteem, increased energy and a decreased need for sleep. Depressive symptoms may include physical complaints such as headaches, tiredness, lack of interest in activities, or social isolation.

In children, the disorder interferes with normal, healthy functioning and is associated with suicide, school failure, and risk-taking behaviors such as sexual promiscuity and substance abuse.

The prevalence and incidence of pediatric bipolar disorder is unknown.

"Lithium has proven to be effective in preventing future episodes of bipolar disorder and reducing suicidal thoughts in adults," said Pavuluri, who leads the UIC trial. "This study will help us to determine if lithium may have a similar protective effect in pediatric patients and help us to develop future treatment protocols."

Sherri McGinnis Gonzalez | EurekAlert!
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