Drug Therapy: Nitrates

Nitrates are used to treat chest pain associated with angina and to reduce the symptoms of congestive heart failure. They are called vasodilators because they cause the blood vessels to widen. This makes the blood flow better, reduces blood pressure, reduces the workload on the heart and allows more oxygen-rich blood to reach the heart muscle.

If nitrates are prescribed, the doctor should be made aware of any other drug, vitamin, mineral or herbal supplement the patient is taking, especially:

  • Certain heart medicines
  • Medications for high blood pressure
  • Over-the-counter cough, cold and flu medicines
  • Over-the-counter herbal cough, cold and flu medicines
  • Viagra┬« (sildenafil). When mixed with nitrates, Viagra can lower the blood pressure, making the patient dizzy, lightheaded or faint. In some cases, Viagra taken with nitrates has caused death. Patients should not take Viagra within 24 hours of taking nitrates.
Patients should avoid smoking when taking nitrates. Smoking can decrease the effect of the medicine. Alcohol should be avoided because it can increase the effect of nitrates.

The doctor should be told if the patient has:

  • An overactive thyroid
  • Anemia
  • Been thinking about becoming pregnant or already is pregnant
  • Frequent, severe headaches
  • Glaucoma
  • Liver or kidney disease
  • Recently had a heart attack
  • Recently had a stroke

To learn more about these types of drugs and their side effects, click on the links below:

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