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What Is Isosorbide Dinitrate?

Isosorbide dinitrate widens the blood vessels to help boost blood flow to the heart.
Isosorbide dinitrate may be used to treat chest pain.
Article Details
  • Written By: C.B. Fox
  • Edited By: Susan Barwick
  • Last Modified Date: 31 October 2014
  • Copyright Protected:
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    Conjecture Corporation
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Isosorbide dinitrate is a medication used to prevent chest pain. It decreases blood pressure and widens the blood vessels which helps to boost blood flow to the heart. It is not a particularly effective treatment if the pain has already commenced and works much better when taken as a preventative.

Most patients are prescribed three or four doses of isosorbide dinitrate to take daily. The drug takes a while to become effective and may cause severe side effects while a patient is adjusting to it. Severe headaches are the most common side effect reported, though these generally diminish over time. Patients may also experience nausea, dizziness, and flushing.

Constricted blood vessels and decreased blood flow to the heart are the main causes of heart pain. This pain, which is also called angina, is often treated with medications such as isosorbide dinitrate. When blood vessels are not wide enough, the heart needs to pump harder to force enough blood through the body. This increased activity requires more oxygen, which is brought to the heart through the blood vessels. If blood vessels are too narrow, the heart itself can experience an oxygen shortage which causes angina.

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A member of the drug class called nitrates, isosorbide dinitrate causes blood vessels to dilate. Wider blood vessels decrease the power needed by the heart to pump blood through the body and increase blood flow to the heart. Nitrates such as isosorbide dinitrate treat angina through both of these actions, though they take a while to become effective.

Isosorbide dinitrate can interfere adversely with many different medications. The patient should discuss the medications he is currently taking with his doctor to make sure it is safe to take isosorbide dinitrate at the same time. This medication is particularly dangerous when combined with sildenafil, vardenafil and tadalafil and may cause a life-threatening drop in blood pressure.

Certain preexisting health conditions may make using isosorbide dinitrate dangerous. Patients with kidney disease, gastrointestinal problems, and low blood pressure may need to undergo certain tests in order to determine how safe this medication is for them. Isosorbide dinitrate should not be taken immediately preceding physical activity.

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