Lithium (Li) is normally found in hair at very low levels. Hair Li correlates with high dosage of Li carbonate in patients treated for Affective Disorders. However, the clinical significance of low hair Li levels is not certain at this time. Thus, hair Li is measured primarily for research purposes. Anecdotally, clinical feedback to DDI consultants suggests that low level Li supplementation may have some beneficial effects in patients with behavioral/emotional disorders. Li occurs almost universally in water and in the diet; excess Li is rapidly excreted in urine.
Li at low levels may have essential functions in humans. Intracellularly, Li inhibits the conversion of phosphorylated inositol to free inositol. In the nervous system this moderates neuronal excitability. Li also influences monamine neurotransmitter concentrations at the synapse (this function is increased when Li is used therapeutically for mania or bipolar illness).
A confirmatory test for low Li is measurement of Li in blood serum/plasma.
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