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How Does Nitroglycerin Work?

People with coronary artery disease may benefit from nitroglycerin (Minitran™, Nitro-Bid®, Nitro-Dur®, Nitrolingual®, NitroMist®, Nitrostat®, Rectiv™). This prescription drug comes in various forms, including tablets, patches, an ointment, and an intravenous (IV) solution. This medicine is specifically approved to help treat or prevent angina (chest pain), but how does nitroglycerin work?
 
Nitroglycerin works by relaxing the veins and arteries, helping to improve blood flow and oxygen supply to the heart. Because angina is typically caused when there is not enough oxygen to meet the heart's needs, this medication can help relieve angina attacks. By relaxing the blood vessels, it can also lower blood pressure.
 
(For more details on how this drug works, click Nitroglycerin. This full-length article takes a closer look at the drug's actions on the heart and how it works to treat or prevent chest pain. This article also lists possible side effects, covers general dosing guidelines, and explains why this drug is not suitable for some people.)
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