Nitroglycerin - Use | Dose | Side Effects

This article was medically reviewed by M.Pharm, Marko Tanaskovic on August 12, 2018. To read more about an author, click here.

Nitroglycerin is a drug from the group of nitrates and is used to treat heart diseases, such as:

  • Angina pectoris
  • Heart failure
  • Heart attack

Sometimes is used for regulation of hypertension during surgeries. Its mechanism of action is well known. Given that it belongs to the group of nitrates, it works by releasing nitric oxide, which has vasodilator properties (causes blood vessels to dilate). The expansion of the blood vessels improves blood flow to the heart thereby Nitroglycerin eases symptoms in patients with angina or myocardial ischemia.


If stored inappropriately, this drug can quickly lose effects which leads to decrease of its effectiveness.1

Nitroglycerin is one of the drugs that can cause methemoglobinemia 2, so if you notice a change in the color of your blood or skin color changes, you should contact your physician immediately.

Nitroglycerin is associated with a reduction in glomerular filtration that takes place in the kidneys, which can impair the functioning of kidneys.3 Therefore, caution is recommended when applying this drug in patients with impaired renal function.

All vasodilators, including Nitroglycerin, can cause headaches that can sometimes be severe. However, you should not discontinue using the drug despite the fact that you have a headache. Try to take Paracetamol to solve this adverse effect.

Nitroglycerin is absolutely contraindicated in patients taking drugs that are used to treat erectile dysfunction such as: sildenafil (Viagra), tadalafil (Cialis) and others. Concomitant use can lead to serious side effects.

Nitroglycerin and its use during pregnancy and lactation

Nitroglycerin can be used during pregnancy to treat only severe hypertension.4 However, Nitroglycerin should be cautiously used during pregnancy because it is classified in the group C (according to the FDA), which means that studies in animals have shown toxic effects of this drug, but there is no sufficient data on its use in human pregnancy.

It is excreted in breast milk and the doctors from UK recommend to avoid breastfeeding completely avoided while taking this drug.


Nitroglycerin comes in several pharmaceutical forms and in different dosages. Nitroglycerin sublingual tablets are probably best known. Sublingual tablets exist at doses of 0.3 and 0.6 mg and recommended dosage is one tablet under the tongue as needed, but not more than 3 tablets within 15 minutes. Be sure to take this drug while sitting up, because you may experience hypotension or dizziness if you're standing.

Your doctor will determine what dose you should apply.


As already stated, nitroglycerin should not be concurrently used with drugs used in the treatment of erectile dysfunction. Nitroglycerin has not shown any other major drug interactions.

Adverse effects

Nitroglycerin may cause the following side effects:

  • Headache (the most common side effect)
  • Dizziness
  • Redness and feeling the heat
  • Increased sweating
  • Unusual weakness
  • Rapid weight loss or rapid weight gain
  • Abdominal discomfort
  • Pale skin
  • Shallow breathing
  • Arrhythmias


  1. NCBI link 1
  2. NCBI link 2
  3. NCBI link 3
  4. NCBI link 4

Information on this website are provided for educational purposes only and are not intended for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment.

If you have any concerns or questions about your health, you should always consult with a physician or other health-care professional.

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