What is Nitroglycerin: About Drugs Used To Treat Chest Pain Also Known As Angina

Nitroglycerin is classified therapeutically as an antianginal medication and pharmacologically as a nitrate. It is used to treat sudden episodes of angina and to prevent the occurrence of future episodes. Some other medications in this class are:

  • nitrostat
  • nitroQuick
  • deponit
  • nitrek
  • nitrong

How Nitroglycerin Works

Angina is caused by a lack of oxygenated blood flow to an area of the heart. A person experiencing angina may feel painful pressure or a squeezing sensation in their chest area. This pain may radiate to a person’s shoulders, jaws, back, neck or arms. Nitroglycerin increases blood flow to the heart by making the blood vessels that deliver oxygenated blood to the heart bigger. This process is called vasodilation. It relaxes the blood vessels in the body and decreases chest pain. Vasodilation of blood vessels that deliver blood to the rest of the body reduces the amount of work the heart has to perform, thereby reducing the oxygen needs of the heart. Nitroglycerin is available as a spray, tablets, capsules, extended release tablets.

Side Effects Of Nitroglycerin

Some side effects of this drug that should be reported to a healthcare provider if they become severe are as follows:

  • headaches
  • dizziness
  • flushing
  • lightheadedness

Adverse Effects Of Nitroglycerin

Side effects with potentially serious effects are called adverse effects and need to be reported to a healthcare provider immediately. The adverse effects of nitroglycerin are:

  • nausea
  • vomitting
  • weakness
  • blurred vision
  • fainting spell
  • abdominal pain
  • sweating
  • chest pain
  • pale skin
  • rashes
  • peeling of the skin
  • blisters on the skin
  • hives
  • itching
  • difficulty breathing

Precautions

A person taking nitroglycerin should always take the following precautions:

  1. Get up slowly from a sitting or standing position to prevent falls due to dizziness or light headedness.
  2. Take the medication as prescribed if when feeling better.
  3. Avoid drinking alcohol while taking this medication and speak to a doctor before taking any over the counter drug.
  4. Be aware that headaches are a common side effect of this medication and should stop after a while.
  5. Notify a doctor of the headaches become unbearable or persistent.
  6. Take the medication at the first sign of angina. If the pain is not relieved in five minutes, another tablet can be taken. A maximum of three tablets should be taken at five minute intervals.
  7. Notify a healthcare provider or go to the emergency room if the pain is not relieved after taking three tablets.
  8. Store the medication in the container it came in to prevent loss of potency.
  9. Replace the medication every six months.

Be aware of symptoms of nitroglycerin overdose and contact emergency services if they happen.

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