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  Health Information Center  :  N  :  Nitroglycerin

 Nitroglycerin Ointment


Common brand names: Nitro-Bid Ointment, Nitrol

Why is nitroglycerin ointment prescribed?
Nitroglycerin ointment is absorbed through the skin into the bloodstream. It affects the supply of blood and oxygen to the heart and is used to prevent chest pain (angina pectoris). Nitroglycerin ointment is not used to relieve chest pain during an attack because it takes 30 minutes to take effect.

When should nitroglycerin ointment be used?
Nitroglycerin ointment usually is applied three or four times a day. Your doctor may tell you to remove the ointment at a certain time each day. Follow the instructions on your prescription label carefully, and ask your pharmacist or doctor to explain any part that you do not understand. Contact your doctor if you continue to have angina attacks. NEVER stop using nitroglycerin without consulting your doctor. Stopping the drug abruptly may cause chest pain. Your doctor probably will want to decrease your dose gradually.

How should it be used?
Nitroglycerin ointment comes with paper with a ruled line for measuring the dose (in inches). Squeeze the ointment onto the paper, carefully measuring the amount specified on your prescription label. Use the paper to spread the ointment in a thin layer on a relatively hair-free area of skin (at least 2 inches by 3 inches) such as your chest. Do not rub in the ointment. Leave the paper on top of the ointment and hold it in place with an elastic bandage, hosiery or tape.

Wash your hands after applying the ointment; try not to get the ointment on your fingers.

Ask your pharmacist any questions you may have about refilling your prescription.

What special instructions should I follow while using this drug?
Do not use this medication if you are taking sildenafil (Viagra).

Keep all appointments with your doctor and report any chest pain. Nitroglycerin can lose its effectiveness over time. Contact your doctor if the frequency, severity or duration of your angina worsens.

Follow your doctor's instructions to stop smoking, lose weight, rest and avoid situations that cause angina (such as heavy meals, emotional upsets, strenuous exercise and cold weather). Nitroglycerin can cause dizziness. Do not drive a car or operate dangerous machinery until you know how this drug affects you.

Be sure that you always have enough of this medication on hand. Check your supply before vacations, holidays and other occasions when you may be unable to obtain it.

What should I do if I forget to apply a dose?
Apply the missed dose as soon as you remember it. However, if you remember a missed dose near the time you are scheduled to apply the next dose, apply only the scheduled dose. Do not apply a double dose.

What side effects can this drug cause? What can I do about them?

  • Headache
    If headache persists, ask your doctor if you may take aspirin or acetaminophen. Your nitroglycerin dose may need to be adjusted. Do not take any medication for headache or change your dose without consulting your doctor.
  • Skin irritation
    Apply the ointment to a different skin area. Do not use cosmetics or other skin care products on the treated areas. If irritation persists, contact your doctor.
  • Dizziness, lightheadedness, weakness, and faintness, especially while standing still or when in a warm place
    Lie or sit down. Getting up more slowly may help. Be careful to limit the amount of alcohol you drink, and during exercise, hot weather or if standing for a long time. Contact your doctor if these effects persist, if they are severe, or if you faint.
  • Upset stomach
    Contact your doctor if this problem is severe or persists.
  • Blurred vision, dry mouth, skin rash
    Contact your doctor immediately.
  • If you experience any other side effects that you think could be caused by this medication and/or are of concern to you, cal your doctor.

What other precautions should I follow while using this drug?
Before using nitroglycerin ointment, tell your doctor:

  • If you have ever had a bad reaction to nitrate medications (such as Isordil, Imdur, Sorbitrate, Cardilate, Duotrate, Monoket, or Peritrate for chest pain) or any other medications.
  • What vitamins, herbals, dietary supplements, nonprescription (over-the-counter) and other prescription medications you are taking, and especially if you are taking sildenafil (Viagra); aspirin; high blood pressure medications; beta blockers such as atenolol (Tenormin), carteolol (Cartrol), labetalol (Normodyne, Trandate), metoprolol (Lopressor), nadolol (Corgard), propranolol (Inderal), sotalol (Betapace), timolol (Blocadren); calcium channel blockers such as amlodipine (Norvasc), diltiazem (Cardiazem), felodipine (Plendil), isradipine (DynaCirc), nifedipine (Procardia) and verapamil (Calan); dihydroergotamine (Migranal), anastrozole (Arimidex), glatiramer (Copaxone); or niacin. (Also inform your pharmacist.)
  • If you are pregnant, trying to become pregnant, become pregnant while taking this medication or are breastfeeding
  • If you have or have ever had low red blood cell counts (anemia), glaucoma, low blood pressure, congestive heart failure, enlarged heart, kidney disease, or recent head trauma.

Ask your doctor about the safe use of alcoholic beverages. Alcohol can worsen the side effects of nitroglycerin ointment. In addition, tell your doctor or dentist if you are having surgery including dental surgery. Never share your medication with anyone.

What storage conditions are necessary for this drug?

  • Keep this medication out of the reach of children and away from toothpaste and other ointments and creams.
  • Close the ointment tube tightly after each use.
  • Store it at room temperature and away from excess heat and moisture (not in bathroom).
  • Never take outdated medications. Some medication prescription labels list an expiration date. If such a date is not on your medication label or if you are unsure how old a medication is, call your pharmacy.

This handout summarizes information to help you understand and safely take your medication. Other information--not included in this handout--may be important for you to know because of your unique health status. Ask your doctor and/or pharmacist for more information on the medications prescribed for you and your unique health care needs.

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