Lithium carbonate, a drug known for more than 100 years, has been successfully used as a psychiatric medication. Currently, it is a commonly used drug to treat patients with unipolar and bipolar depression, and for the prophylaxis of bipolar disorders and acute mania. Lithium salts may cause the development of goiter, hypothyroidism, or rarely hyperthyroidism. The present review examined the current state of knowledge on the effect of lithium carbonate on the thyroid gland. The Pubmed database and Google Scholar were searched for articles related to the effects of lithium therapy on the thyroid gland function published up to February 2020. Studies that examined the mechanism of action of lithium at the molecular level, including pharmacokinetics, and focused on its effects on the thyroid gland were included. Lithium as a mood-stabilizing drug has a complex mechanism of action. Because of the active transport of Na/I ions, lithium, despite its concentration gradient, is accumulated in the thyroid gland at a concentration 3 – 4 times higher than that in the plasma. It can inhibit the formation of colloid in thyrocytes, change the structure of thyroglobulin, weaken the iodination of tyrosines, and disrupt their coupling. In addition, it reduces the clearance of free thyroxine in the serum, thereby indirectly reducing the activity of 5-deiodinase type 1 and 2 and reducing the deiodination of these hormones in the liver. Taken together, this review provides recommendations for monitoring the thyroid gland in patients who require long-term lithium therapy. Prior to the initiation of lithium therapy, thyroid ultrasound should be performed, and the levels of thyroid hormones (fT3 and fT4), TSH, and antithyroid peroxidase and antithyroglobulin antibodies should be measured. If the patient shows normal thyroid function, TSH level measurement and thyroid ultrasound should be performed at 6- to 12-month intervals for long term.

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PubMed