Nitroglycerin

Nitroglycerin is used to treat and prevent chest pain. Store nitroglycerin tablets in the original glass container and tightly cap after each use.

Nitroglycerin Overview

Reviewed: September 21, 2012
Updated: 

Nitroglycerin is a prescription medication used to treat or prevent episodes of angina (sudden chest pain). Nitroglycerin belongs to a group of drugs called nitrates. These work by relaxing (widening) blood vessels, which makes it easier for the heart to pump blood.

Nitroglycerin is available in immediate-release tablet, topical ointment, transdermal patch, and oral spray forms.

The immediate-release tablets and spray can be used as needed to prevent or treat chest pain. The dose may be repeated every 5 minutes until chest pain is relieved. Seek emergency medical attention if the pain persists after 3 doses.

The topical ointment and transdermal patch are used for long-term prevention of chest pain. These forms cannot be used to treat chest pain that has already started. The ointment is usually applied to the skin twice daily and the patch is usually applied once a day.

Nitroglycerin is also available in an injectable form to be given directly into a vein (IV) by a healthcare professional.

Common side effects of nitroglycerin include headache, dizziness, decreased blood pressure, and increased chest pain.

Nitroglycerin may case dizziness. Do not drive or operate heavy machinery until you know how nitroglycerin affects you.

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Nitroglycerin Cautionary Labels

precautionsprecautions

Uses of Nitroglycerin

Nitroglycerin is a prescription medicine used to treat and prevent angina associated with coronary artery disease (CAD).

This medication may be prescribed for other uses. Ask your doctor or pharmacist for more information.

Nitroglycerin Brand Names

Nitroglycerin Drug Class

Nitroglycerin is part of the drug class:

Side Effects of Nitroglycerin

Serious side effects have been reported with nitroglycerin. See the "Nitroglycerin Preacautions" section.

Common side effects of nitroglycerin include:

  • headache
  • lightheadedness
  • low blood pressure
  • fast or irregular heartbeat
  • worsening chest pain
  • redness or irritation of the skin that was covered by the patch

This is not a complete list of nitroglycerin side effects. Ask your doctor or pharmacist for more information.

Tell your doctor if you have any side effect that bothers you or does not go away.

Call your doctor for medical advice about side effects. You may report side effects to the FDA at 1-800-FDA-1088.

Nitroglycerin Interactions

Tell your doctor about all the medicines you take, including prescription and non-prescription medicines, vitamins, and herbal supplements. Especially tell your doctor if you take:

  • beta blockers such as atenolol (Tenormin), carteolol, labetalol (Trandate), metoprolol (Lopressor), nadolol (Corgard), propranolol (Inderal), sotalol (Betapace), and timolol (Blocadren)
  • calcium channel blockers such as amlodipine (Norvasc), diltiazem (Cardizem), felodipine (Plendil), isradipine (DynaCirc), nifedipine (Procardia), and verapamil (Calan, Isoptin)
  • dihydroergotamine (D.H.E. 45, Migranal)
  • medications for high blood pressure, heart failure, mental illness or nausea
  • phosphodiesterase (PDE-5) inhibitors such as sildenafil (Viagra), tadalafil (Cialis), and vardenafil (Levitra)
  • riociguat (Adempas)

Do not consume alcohol while taking nitroglycerin, as this can lower your blood pressure.

This is not a complete list of nitroglycerin drug interactions. Ask your doctor or pharmacist for more information.

Nitroglycerin Precautions

Serious side effects have been reported with nitroglycerin, including:

  • slow, fast, or irregular heartbeat
  • worsening chest pain
  • fainting
  • rash
  • hives
  • itching
  • difficulty breathing or swallowing

Nitroglycerin can cause dizziness. Do not drive or operate heavy machinery until you know how nitroglycerin affects you.

Do not take Nitro-Dur if you:

  • are allergic to Nitro-Dur or to any of its ingredients or to the adhesive used in the patch
  • are taking a phosphodiesterase (PDE-5) inhibitor such as sildenafil (Viagra), tadalafil (Cialis), and vardenafil (Levitra)
  • are taking riociguat (Adempas)

Nitroglycerin Food Interactions

Medications can interact with certain foods. In some cases, this may be harmful and your doctor may advise you to avoid certain foods. In the case of nitroglycerin, there are no specific foods that you must exclude from your diet when receiving this medication.

Inform MD

Before using nitroglycerin, tell your doctor about all your medical conditions. Especially tell your doctor if you:

  • are allergic to nitroglycerin or to any of its ingredients
  • are dehydrated
  • have recently had a heart attack
  • have heart failure
  • have or have had low blood pressure
  • have hypertrophic cardiomyopathy (thickening of the heart muscle)
  • are pregnant or breastfeeding

Tell your doctor about all the medicines you take, including prescription and non-prescription medicines, vitamins, and herbal supplements.

Nitroglycerin and Pregnancy

Tell your doctor if you are pregnant or plan to become pregnant.

The FDA categorizes medications based on safety for use during pregnancy. Five categories - A, B, C, D, and X - are used to classify the possible risks to an unborn baby when a medication is taken during pregnancy.

Nitroglycerin falls into category C. No animal studies have been conducted with nitroglycerin transdermal patches. No well-controlled studies have been conducted in pregnant women. Nitroglycerin should only be given to a pregnant woman if clearly needed.

Nitroglycerin and Lactation

Tell your doctor if you are breastfeeding or plan to breastfeed.

It is not known if nitroglycerin crosses into human breast milk. Because many medications can cross into human milk and because of the possiblity for serious adverse reactions in nursing infants with use of this medication, a choice should be made whether to stop nursing or to stop the use of this medication. You and your doctor will decide if the benefits outweigh the risks of using nitroglycerin.

Nitroglycerin Usage

Take nitroglycerin exactly as prescribed.

Nitroglycerin is available in immediate-release tablet, topical ointment, transdermal patch, and oral spray forms.

The immediate-release tablets and spray can be used as needed to prevent or treat chest pain. The dose may be repeated every 5 minutes until chest pain is relieved. Seek emergency medical attention if the pain persists after 3 doses.

Do not chew, crush, or swallow nitroglycerin tablets.

The topical ointment and transdermal patch are used for long-term prevention of chest pain. These forms cannot be used to treat chest pain that has already started. The ointment is usually applied to the skin twice daily and the patch is usually applied once a day. If you miss a dose, apply the missed dose as soon as you remember. If it is almost time for the next dose, skip the missed dose and apply the next dose at the regualr time. Do not apply 2 doses of nitroglycerin at once.

Nitroglycerin is also available in an injectable form to be given directly into a vein (IV) by a healthcare professional.

Do not stop using nitroglycerin without talking to your doctor.

Nitroglycerin Dosage

Take this medication exactly as prescribed by yoru doctor. Follow the directions on your prescription label carefully.

The dose your doctor recommends may be based on the following:

  • the condition being treated
  • how you respond to this medication

For long-prevention of angina, your doctor will probably start you on a low dose of nitroglycerin ointment or transdermal system and gradually increase your dose to control your chest pain.

Nitroglycerin Overdose

If you take too much nitroglycerin, call your healthcare provider or local Poison Control Center or seek emergency medical attention right away.

If nitroglycerin is administered by a healthcare provider in a medical setting, it is unlikely that an overdose will occur. However, if overdose is suspected, seek emergency medical attention.

Other Requirements

  • Store nitroglycerin at room temperature, between 59° and 86°F (15° and 30°C).
  • Store nitroglycerin tablets in the original glass container; tightly cap the container after each use to prevent loss of tablet potency.
  • Do not refrigerate.

Nitroglycerin FDA Warning

You must consult your doctor for important information before using this drug.