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What Are the Most Common Uses for Nitroglycerin Spray?

A.E. Freeman
Updated May 17, 2024
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Nitroglycerin spray is most commonly used to prevent angina, or chest pain, from occurring. A patient usually takes the medication before engaging in an activity that may trigger the pain, such as exercise. In some cases, nitroglycerin spray is used to treat chest pain when it happens. The spray should be taken when needed, either a few minutes before the activity or right when the pain begins. Overuse of the medicine can reduce its effectiveness.

A patient should use nitroglycerin spray only as directed by his doctor. Usually, patients are told to use the spray about 10 minutes before engaging in an activity that can trigger their angina. Activities that may lead to chest pain include anything that leads to physical exertion, including playing sports, exercising, or engaging in sex.

Nitroglycerin spray may also stop chest pain or angina if taken right at the start of an attack. A patient may need up to three doses in a row to stop the pain at the start of an attack. If the pain does not stop after three doses, or sprays, the patient should go to the hospital.

Patients should use nitroglycerin spray when sitting down. The bottle should be held upright and then sprayed into the mouth, just under the tongue or directly onto the tongue. For the medicine to work, a patient shouldn't rinse out his mouth for at least five minutes after using the medication. Up to three sprays can be used at one time, spaced five minutes apart.

Angina usually occurs when the heart cannot get enough blood and oxygen fast enough. People who have coronary artery disease typically have plaque buildup in their arteries, which reduces the amount of blood that flows to the heart, leading to chest pain or angina. Nitrates such as nitroglycerin spray help to treat chest pain by widening the blood vessels so that blood can flow to the heart more readily.

Over time, nitroglycerin may not work as well as it did initially. A patient should use only as many sprays as needed to stop the pain to prevent the medication from losing its effectiveness. If a patient notices that his chest pain is happening more often or that the spray does not work as quickly as it did before, he should talk to his doctor. A patient who experiences any severe side effects from the spray, such as nausea and vomiting, fainting, and a rash, should see his doctor right away.

WiseGEEK is dedicated to providing accurate and trustworthy information. We carefully select reputable sources and employ a rigorous fact-checking process to maintain the highest standards. To learn more about our commitment to accuracy, read our editorial process.
A.E. Freeman
By A.E. Freeman , Former Writer
Amy Freeman, a freelance copywriter and content creator, makes engaging copy that drives customer acquisition and retention. With a background in the arts, she combines her writing prowess with best practices to deliver compelling content across various domains and effectively connect with target audiences.

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A.E. Freeman

A.E. Freeman

Former Writer

Amy Freeman, a freelance copywriter and content creator, makes engaging copy that drives customer acquisition and...
Learn more
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