Lithium tremor revisited: pathophysiology and treatment

Acta Psychiatr Scand. 2014 Jan;129(1):17-23. doi: 10.1111/acps.12171. Epub 2013 Jul 3.


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.

Keywords: bipolar disorder; lithium; side-effect.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Adrenergic beta-Antagonists / therapeutic use
  • Anticonvulsants / therapeutic use
  • Antimanic Agents / adverse effects*
  • Antimanic Agents / blood
  • Humans
  • Linoleic Acid / therapeutic use
  • Lithium Compounds / adverse effects*
  • Lithium Compounds / blood
  • Tremor / chemically induced*
  • Tremor / diagnosis
  • Tremor / drug therapy
  • Vitamin B 12 / therapeutic use


  • Adrenergic beta-Antagonists
  • Anticonvulsants
  • Antimanic Agents
  • Lithium Compounds
  • Linoleic Acid
  • Vitamin B 12