Health Encyclopedia > Medications

nitroglycerin (oral/sublingual)

Pronunciation: NYE troe GLI ser in (OR al/sub LIN gwal)

Brand: Nitro-Time, Nitrolingual, Nitrolingual Duo Pack, Nitromist, Nitrostat

Nitroglycerin 2.5 mg ER_EON

clear/purple, imprinted with E5174

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Nitroglycerin 2.5 mg-ETH

clear/purple, imprinted with ETHEX, 004

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Nitroglycerin 6.5 mg ER-EON

blue/yellow, imprinted with E1235

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Nitroglycerin 6.5 mg-ETH

blue/yellow, imprinted with ETHEX, 005

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Nitroglycerin 9 mg ER-EON

green/yellow, imprinted with E1217

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Nitroglycerin ER 9 mg-ETH

clear, imprinted with ETHEX, 006

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Nitroquick 0.3 mg-ETH

oval, white, imprinted with 3, ETH

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Nitroquick 0.4 mg-ETH

oval, white, imprinted with 4, ETH

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Nitroquick 0.6 mg

oval, white, imprinted with 6, ETH

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Nitrostat 0.3 mg

round, white, imprinted with 3, N

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Nitrostat 0.4 mg

round, white, imprinted with 4, N

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What is the most important information I should know about nitroglycerin?

Multum donot

Do not use nitroglycerin if you are taking sildenafil (Viagra, Revatio), tadalafil (Cialis), or vardenafil (Levitra). Serious, life-threatening side effects can occur if you take nitroglycerin while you are using sildenafil.

Nitroglycerin can cause severe headaches, especially when you first start using it. These headaches may gradually become less severe as you continue to use nitroglycerin. Do not stop taking the medication. Ask your doctor before using any headache pain medication.

What is nitroglycerin?

Nitroglycerin is in a group of drugs called nitrates. Nitroglycerin dilates (widens) blood vessels, making it easier for blood to flow through them and easier for the heart to pump.

Nitroglycerin is used to treat or prevent attacks of chest pain (angina).

Nitroglycerin may also be used for purposes not listed in this medication guide.

What should I discuss with my healthcare provider before taking nitroglycerin?

Multum donot

Do not use nitroglycerin if you are taking sildenafil (Viagra, Revatio), tadalafil (Cialis), or vardenafil (Levitra). Serious, life-threatening side effects can occur if you take nitroglycerin while you are using sildenafil.

Do not use this medication without the advice of a doctor if you have early signs of a heart attack (chest pain or heavy feeling, pain spreading to the arm or shoulder, nausea, sweating, general ill feeling). Seek emergency medical attention if you have symptoms of a heart attack.

Multum donot

You should not use this medication if you are allergic to nitroglycerin or other nitrates such as isosorbide dinitrate (Dilatrate, Isordil, Isochron) or isosorbide mononitrate (Imdur, ISMO, Monoket), or if you have:

  • severe anemia (a lack of red blood cells); or
  • a brain injury, hemorrhage, or tumor.

To make sure you can safely take nitroglycerin, tell your doctor if you have any of these other conditions:

  • congestive heart failure;
  • a history of heart attack, stroke, or head injury;
  • low blood pressure;
  • glaucoma;
  • migraine headaches; or
  • liver disease.
Multum nopreg

FDA pregnancy category C. It is not known whether nitroglycerin will harm an unborn baby. Tell your doctor if you are pregnant or plan to become pregnant while using this medication.

Multum nobrfeed

It is not known whether nitroglycerin passes into breast milk or if it could harm a nursing baby. Do not use this medication without telling your doctor if you are breast-feeding a baby.

Nitroglycerin can cause severe headaches, especially when you first start using it. These headaches may gradually become less severe as you continue to use nitroglycerin. Do not stop taking the medication. Ask your doctor before using any headache pain medication.

How should I take nitroglycerin?

Take exactly as prescribed by your doctor. Do not take in larger or smaller amounts or for longer than recommended. Follow the directions on your prescription label.

If possible, try to rest or stay seated when you use this medication. Nitroglycerin can cause dizziness or fainting.

If you use nitroglycerin sublingual spray to treat an angina attack: At the first sign of an attack, apply the spray directly on or under your tongue. Close your mouth after each spray. Do not inhale the spray. Do not shake the spray before or during use. You may use additional sprays every 5 minutes, but not more than 3 sprays in 15 minutes.

You may use nitroglycerin spray within 5 to 10 minutes before an activity you think might cause chest pain. Follow your doctor's instructions.

The nitroglycerin sublingual tablet should be placed under your tongue and allowed to dissolve slowly. Do not chew or swallow it. You may use additional tablets every 5 minutes, but not more than 3 tablets in 15 minutes.

Multum emt

Seek emergency medical attention if your chest pain gets worse or lasts more than 5 minutes, especially if you have trouble breathing or feel weak, dizzy, or nauseated, or lightheaded.

Multum donot

You may feel a slight burning or stinging in your mouth when you use this medication. However, this sensation is not a sign of how well the medication is working. Do not use more medication just because you do not feel a burning or stinging.

Multum nocrush

Do not crush, chew, break, or open an extended-release capsule. Swallow the pill whole. It is specially made to release medicine slowly in the body. Breaking or opening the pill would cause too much of the drug to be released at one time.

This medication can cause unusual results with certain medical tests. Tell any doctor who treats you that you are using nitroglycerin.

Keep this medicine on hand at all times in case of an angina attack. Get your prescription refilled before you run out of medicine completely.

Multum donot

If you take nitroglycerin on a regular schedule to prevent angina, do not stop taking it suddenly or you could have a severe attack of angina.

Multum rt

Store the tablets in the glass container at room temperature, away from moisture and heat. Keep the spray away from open flame or high heat, such as in a car on a hot day. The canister may explode if it gets too hot.

What happens if I miss a dose?

Since nitroglycerin is taken as needed, you may not be on a dosing schedule. If you are taking the medication regularly, take the missed dose as soon as you remember. Skip the missed dose if your next dose is less than 2 hours away. Do not take extra medicine to make up the missed dose.

What happens if I overdose?

Multum emt

Seek emergency medical attention or call the Poison Help line at 1-800-222-1222. An overdose of nitroglycerin can be fatal.

Overdose symptoms may include a severe throbbing headache, confusion, fever, fast or pounding heartbeats, dizziness, vision problems, nausea, vomiting, bloody diarrhea, trouble breathing, cold or clammy skin, feeling light-headed, fainting, and seizures.

What should I avoid while taking nitroglycerin?

Multum dizzy

Nitroglycerin can cause side effects that may impair your thinking or reactions. Be careful if you drive or do anything that requires you to be awake and alert.

Multum noalcohol

Avoid drinking alcohol. It can increase some of the side effects of nitroglycerin, such as dizziness, drowsiness, feeling light-headed, or fainting.

What are the possible side effects of nitroglycerin?

Multum emt

Get emergency medical help if you have any of these signs of an allergic reaction: hives; difficulty breathing; swelling of your face, lips, tongue, or throat.

Multum donot

Call your doctor at once if you have a serious side effect such as:

  • fast, slow, pounding, or uneven heart rate;
  • blurred vision or dry mouth;
  • nausea, vomiting, sweating, pale skin, feeling like you might pass out; or
  • fever, sore throat, and headache with a severe blistering, peeling, and red skin rash.

Less serious side effects may include:

  • mild burning or tingling with the tablet in your mouth;
  • warmth, redness, or tingly feeling under your skin; or
  • feeling weak or dizzy.

This is not a complete list of side effects and others may occur. Call your doctor for medical advice about side effects. You may report side effects to FDA at 1-800-FDA-1088.

What other drugs will affect nitroglycerin?

Many drugs can interact with nitroglycerin. Below is just a partial list. Tell your doctor if you are using:

  • alteplase (Activase);
  • aspirin or heparin;
  • bladder or urinary medications such as oxybutynin (Ditropan) or tolterodine (Detrol);
  • blood pressure medication;
  • bronchodilators such as ipratropium (Atrovent) or tiotropium (Spiriva);
  • dihydroergotamine (D.H.E. 45, Migranal) or ergotamine (Ergomar, Cafergot, and others);
  • an antidepressant such as amitriptyline (Elavil, Vanatrip, Limbitrol), clomipramine (Anafranil), imipramine (Tofranil), and others;
  • a beta-blocker such as atenolol (Tenormin), carvedilol (Coreg), metoprolol (Lopressor, Toprol), nadolol (Corgard), propranolol (Inderal), sotalol (Betapace), and others;
  • a calcium channel blocker such as diltiazem (Tiazac, Cardizem), nifedipine (Procardia), nimodipine (Nimotop), verapamil (Calan, Covera, Verelan), and others;
  • irritable bowel medications such as dicyclomine (Bentyl), hyoscyamine (Anaspaz, Cystospaz, and others), or propantheline (Pro-Banthine);
  • any medication that causes dry mouth; or
  • medicines to treat psychiatric disorders, such as chlorpromazine (Thorazine), haloperidol (Haldol), thioridazine (Mellaril), and others.

This list is not complete and there are many other drugs that can interact with nitroglycerin. Tell your doctor about all medications you use. This includes prescription, over-the-counter, vitamin, and herbal products. Do not start a new medication without telling your doctor.

Where can I get more information?

Your pharmacist can provide more information about nitroglycerin.


Remember, keep this and all other medicines out of the reach of children, never share your medicines with others, and use this medication only for the indication prescribed.

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