Nitroglycerin is a
vasodilator, a medicine that opens blood vessels to improve blood flow. It is
used to treat
angina symptoms, such as chest pain or discomfort that happens when there
is not enough blood flowing to the heart. To improve blood flow to the heart,
nitroglycerin opens up (dilates) the arteries in the heart (coronary arteries), which improves symptoms and
reduces how hard the heart has to work.
Nitroglycerin comes in
quick-acting forms and long-acting forms.
In every issue of WebMD the Magazine, we ask our experts to answer readers' questions about a wide range of topics. In our September 2011 issue, we gave a reader's question about preventing heart disease to James Beckerman, MD, WebMD's heart health expert.
Q : Heart disease runs in my family. What can I really do now to help prevent it?
A : Cut out these five things to greatly reduce your risk:
Smoking (or hanging around with smokers). Smoking is the most dangerous -- yet most reversible...
Quick-acting forms of
nitroglycerin are used to relieve angina or used just before
activities that typically cause angina. The quick-acting forms include
tablets or oral sprays. The tablets are placed under the tongue (sublingual) or
between the cheek and gum (buccal). The spray is used on or under the tongue.
This topic covers these quick-acting forms of nitroglycerin.
Long-acting forms of nitroglycerin are used to prevent angina from
happening. They are not used to stop sudden symptoms of angina. These long-acting forms
include pills, tablets, skin ointment, and skin patches. This topic does
not cover these long-acting forms of
Your doctor will prescribe the right amount for you.
Do not use another person's nitroglycerin.
When do I use quick-acting nitroglycerin?
doctor will advise you when to use your nitroglycerin. In general, quick-acting
nitroglycerin is used:
To relieve sudden angina.
stressful activities that can cause angina, such as walking uphill or having
How do I use quick-acting nitroglycerin?
Sit or lie down to take your nitroglycerin.
If you are driving, pull over and park the car. Taking nitroglycerin can lower
your blood pressure, which could cause you to pass out if you are standing up.
For sudden episodes of angina, use nitroglycerin in a tablet or
liquid spray form.
Place the under-the-tongue (sublingual)
tablet under your tongue. Leave it there until it dissolves. If you
accidentally swallow the tablet, take another. The medicine won't work if it is
Place the between-cheek-and-gum (buccal) tablet between
your cheek and gum. Leave it there until it dissolves. If you accidentally
swallow the tablet, take another. The medicine won't work if it is
Use the spray under your tongue or on top of your
tongue. Push the spray canister button once. Close your mouth right
Take one tablet or spray dose. If after 5
minutes the chest pain is not better or gets worse, call911or other emergency services immediately.
After you call
911, continue to stay on the phone with
the emergency operator. He or she will give you further
Regardless of what happens, you should let your
doctor know that you had an episode of angina. If this is unusual for you, if your
angina episodes are occurring more frequently or lasting longer, or if you need
more medicine to control them, tell your doctor. Report any change in your
angina symptoms (unstable angina) to your doctor.