Nitrates for Coronary Artery Disease
||Nitro-Dur, Nitrolingual, Nitrostat
How It Works
Nitrates open (dilate) the arteries to
the heart. This increases blood flow to the heart, relieving chest pain
or discomfort (angina).
Nitrates also dilate veins throughout the body so that
they can hold more blood. This reduces the amount of blood going back to the
heart, reducing the heart's workload.
Why It Is Used
Nitrates are used to:
- Prevent angina, when used before
stressful activities that can cause angina (such as sexual intercourse or
walking up stairs or a hill).
- Prevent angina that occurs during
daily activities (long-term use).
How Well It Works
Nitrates reduce strain
on the heart and improve blood flow to the heart, which relieves and prevents
If the usual dose of nitroglycerin does not relieve
chest pain, it often means that the angina may be getting worse or becoming
unstable. If this happens, call your doctor
Side effects of nitrates may
- Feeling of pulsating fullness in the head (most
common side effect); can also cause headache.
- Drop in blood
pressure, which can cause dizziness.
- Burning sensation under the
tongue (with sublingual nitroglycerin).
See Drug Reference for a full list of side effects. (Drug
Reference is not available in all systems.)
What To Think About
Nitrates come in different forms including pills, sprays, skin patches, and skin pastes. Pills and spray forms of quick-acting nitroglycerin help relieve sudden angina. Longer-acting pills or skin patches may be used for long-term
prevention of chest pain during daily activities.
For help using nitroglycerin, see the topic:
Using Nitroglycerin for Sudden Chest Pain.
Do not take the
erection-enhancing medicine sildenafil (Viagra), vardenafil (Levitra), or
tadalafil (Cialis) if you are taking a nitrate. Combining these two drugs can
cause a life-threatening drop in blood pressure. If you develop chest pain and
have taken one of these erection-enhancing medicines, be sure to tell your
health professionals so that they do not attempt to treat you with
nitroglycerin or another nitrate medicine.
Complete the new medication information form (PDF)(What is a PDF document?) to help you understand this medication.