Abstract Background Lithium-induced thyroid abnormalities have been documented in many studies. They may occur despite normal plasma lithium levels. The objectives of this study were: 1) to determine possible relationship between lithium ratio, defined as erythrocyte lithium concentrations divided by plasma lithium concentrations, and thyroid abnormalities in bipolar patients receiving lithium and 2) to find other possible risk factors for developing thyroid abnormalities in the subjects. Methods Sixty-eight bipolar patients receiving lithium therapy were enrolled in a cross-sectional evaluation of thyroid function test and thyroid size. Patients were divided into two groups based on their thyroid function tests and thyroid sizes. Erythrocyte and plasma lithium concentrations were determined by atomic absorption spectrometry for each patient. Lithium ratio was then calculated. Results No significant differences were found between age, positive family history of affective disorder, plasma lithium concentration, erythrocyte lithium concentration, and lithium ratio comparing the two groups. Thyroid abnormalities was significantly higher in women than in men (p Conclusions Lithium ratio does not appear to have a predictive role for thyroidal side effects of lithium therapy. Female gender was the main risk factor. We suggest more frequent thyroid evaluation of bipolar women who are treated with lithium.