What Are the Different Types of Nitroglycerin Tablets?

Jacquelyn Gilchrist

The different types of nitroglycerin tablets include sublingual, extended-release, and buccal tablets. This medication is also available in a spray. Nitroglycerin tablets are commonly prescribed to treat angina, or chest pain. The manner in which they are used will vary, depending on which form of the drug the patient is prescribed. Patients must always follow their doctors’ usage and dosage instructions.

Nitroglycerin tablets may be used to treat angina.
Nitroglycerin tablets may be used to treat angina.

Before using any type of nitroglycerin, patients should sit down, because it may cause fainting or dizziness. The doctor may instruct the patient to take a dose before any physical activity that may cause angina or as soon as the patient first notices symptoms. Some people may be instructed to take a second dose after five minutes if the first dose does not alleviate chest pain. A third dose may be taken five minutes after the second if needed. In the event that three nitroglycerin tablets are ineffective at relieving symptoms, patients will need to call for an ambulance five minutes following the third dose.

Angina causes chest pain due to lack of blood and oxygen to the chest muscles.
Angina causes chest pain due to lack of blood and oxygen to the chest muscles.

Buccal nitroglycerin tablets should be placed in the mouth between the gum and the cheek and allowed to dissolve completely. Patients must avoid chewing or swallowing these tablets.

Other people may be prescribed sublingual tablets. Like the buccal tablet, these must be allowed to completely dissolve in the mouth. The patient will place the dose under his tongue and avoid chewing or swallowing it. Those taking sublingual or buccal tablets may notice a stinging or burning sensation. This is completely normal; however, patients should not be alarmed if they do not notice this.

Nitroglycerin is also available in an extended-release tablet which is swallowed whole. These tablets are used for prevention, rather than treating symptoms that already exist. Doctors will typically prescribe extended-release nitroglycerin tablets three to four times daily.

Those who have difficulty with nitroglycerin tablets may take the drug in a spray. Patients should avoid shaking the container. After removing the cap, it should be held upright and placed very close to the patient’s open mouth. He may then press the button once to release one dose. The medicine should not be inhaled and patients must avoid spitting or drinking for five to 10 minutes.

Any type of nitroglycerin tablet may cause side effects. Those who have overdosed on the drug will likely experience nausea, vomiting, and dizziness, as well as a pounding heartbeat and cold or clammy skin. Other side effects, not necessarily from an overdose, may include blurred vision, fainting, and a fever, along with a severe headache. Patients should seek medical attention if they experience severe side effects from nitroglycerin tablets.

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