Nitrates belong to a class of drugs called vasodilators that dilate or widen the coronary arteries and thus reduce blood pressure and increase blood flow to the heart. This is why they improve chest pain (angina) caused by restricted blood flow to the heart due to narrowing or blockages in coronary arteries in coronary artery disease. Nitrates can be used also as injection or continuous infusion for treatment of angina or resistant hypertension (high blood pressure).

Types of nitrates

Nitrates are available in the form of tablets, sprays, skin patches and injections. Examples would be long-acting preparation Isosorbide Mononitrate (brand name Monosorb, Chemydur) and short-acting Glyceryl Trinitrate (GTN spray). Nitrates do not improve prognosis but are very useful for symptom control and GTN spray is one of the most common prescribed medicines in cardiology.

Side effects

Nitrates may produce side effects like headache, dizziness and burning under the tongue in case of nitroglycerin. Patients using nitrates must avoid medication for treatment of erectile dysfunction such as sildenafil (Viagra) because the combination of these drugs may cause life threatening hypotension (low blood pressure).