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Nitroglycerin and Other Nitrate Medicines

What are nitroglycerin and other nitrates used for?

Nitroglycerin and other nitrate medicines are used to treat some types of heart disease. They may be used to:

  • Prevent or treat angina, which is chest pain or discomfort that starts during exercise and goes away with rest. Angina can happen when the heart muscle does not get enough blood and oxygen. This lack of blood and oxygen is usually caused by a narrowing of the vessels that bring blood to the heart muscle.
  • Treat heart failure. Heart failure happens when the heart muscle cannot squeeze well enough to pump enough blood to meet the body’s needs.

These medicines are available in several forms:

  • Patches that release medicine through the skin
  • Ointment that is absorbed through your skin
  • Capsules or tablets that you swallow
  • Tablets that dissolve in your mouth
  • Liquid that is sprayed onto or under the tongue
  • Injections that are given in the hospital

The type of medicine you use depends on your condition. Depending on the form of medicine, you may use it daily to prevent attacks of angina or only when you start to feel chest pain.

How do they work?

Nitroglycerin and other nitrates relax and open up the blood vessels. This lowers blood pressure and helps blood flow more easily. When your blood flows better, your heart does not have to work as hard.

What else do I need to know about this medicine?

  • Follow the directions that come with your medicine, including information about food or alcohol. Make sure you know how and when to take your medicine. Do not take more or less than you are supposed to take.
  • Many medicines have side effects. A side effect is a symptom or problem that is caused by the medicine. Ask your healthcare provider or pharmacist what side effects the medicine may cause and what you should do if you have side effects.
  • If you use any form of nitroglycerin or other nitrates for a long time, your body may get used to the medicine. The medicine may not work as well as it once did. Tell your provider if you think this medicine is not working as well as it used to.
  • Try to get all of your prescriptions filled at the same place. Your pharmacist can help make sure that all of your medicines are safe to take together.
  • Keep a list of your medicines with you. List all of the prescription medicines, nonprescription medicines, supplements, natural remedies, and vitamins that you take. Tell all healthcare providers who treat you about all of the products you are taking.

If you have any questions, ask your healthcare provider or pharmacist for more information. Be sure to keep all appointments for provider visits or tests.

Developed by RelayHealth.
Adult Advisor 2015.1 published by RelayHealth.
Last modified: 2014-02-02
Last reviewed: 2014-01-25
This content is reviewed periodically and is subject to change as new health information becomes available. The information is intended to inform and educate and is not a replacement for medical evaluation, advice, diagnosis or treatment by a healthcare professional.
Copyright ©1986-2015 McKesson Corporation and/or one of its subsidiaries. All rights reserved.

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