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Mood stabilizers can cause many side effects. Although many of these are well known, like thyroid and renal failure after taking lithium, sexual dysfunction side effects remains unclear.
We made a systematic computerized literature search of clinical studies using MEDLINE, The Cochrane Library and Trip for clinical studies of sexual dysfunction published up to December 2015.
Only eight relevant papers were identified. All of them studied lithium sexual dysfunction in bipolar disorder patients. Valproic acid, carbamazepine and lamotrigine were not studied in patients with bipolar disorder. Nevertheless, the three were studied in epilepsy. Clinical reports usually used Arizona Sexual Experience Scale or Psychotropic Related Sexual Dysfunction Questionnaire to measure sexual dysfunction and Brief Adherence Rating Scale to measure medication adherence. They suggest lithium could decrease desire and sexual thoughts, worse arousal and cause orgasm dysfunction. In overall, those patients with sexual dysfunction had lower level of functioning and poor compliance. Taking benzodiazepines during lithium treatment may increase the risk of sexual dysfunction even more.
There are few studies that focus on mood stabilizers sexual dysfunction. This inevitably entails a number of limitations. First, the small sample size and, in some studies, the relative short period of follow-up may underestimate the results. Besides, practical management was not treated in any study. Actually, handling this side effect have not been well established.
To conclude, this revision suggest that approximately 30% patients receiving lithium experience this side effect, and it is associated with poor medication adherence.
Disclosure of interest
The authors have not supplied their declaration of competing interest.
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