Oral Medications for Erectile Dysfunction

Prescription oral medications can be used for ED. They often work well. But, like all medications, they can have side effects. Also, they can’t be used if a man has certain health problems or takes certain other medications. Talk with your doctor about oral ED medication. Ask whether it is right for you.

Types of Oral ED Medications

There are three types of prescription oral ED medications. Each one increases blood flow to the penis. When the penis is stimulated, an erection results. The three types are:

  • Sildenafil citrate (Viagra)
  • Tadalafil (Cialis)
  • Vardenafil HCl (Levitra)

What Oral ED Medications Don’t Do

There are some things ED medications can’t do.

  • They don’t cure the cause of your ED. Without the medication, you’ll still have trouble getting an erection.
  • They can’t produce an erection without sexual stimulation.
  • They won’t increase sexual desire. They also won’t solve any other sexual issues. Psychological, emotional, or relationship issues will not be fixed.

Taking Oral ED Medications Safely

  • Do not combine ED medications with other treatments unless your doctor tells you to.
  • Don’t take ED medications more often or in larger doses than prescribed.
  • Tell your doctor your health history. Mention all medications you take. This includes over-the-counter drugs, supplements, and herbs.
  • Ask your doctor about whether you can drink alcohol while taking ED medication.

Possible Side Effects of Oral ED Medications

  • Headache
  • Facial flushing
  • Runny or stuffy nose
  • Indigestion
  • Distortion of your color vision for a short time
  • Sudden vision loss or hearing loss (rare)

Risks of Oral ED Medications

  • Do not take ED medications if you take medications containing nitrates. The combination may drop your blood pressure to a dangerous level. Nitrates include nitroglycerin (a drug for angina). They are also in “poppers,” an inhaled recreational drug. If you’re not sure whether you’re taking nitrates, ask your doctor or pharmacist.
  • Medications called alpha-blockers can interact with ED medications. They can cause a sudden drop in blood pressure. Alpha-blockers are a common treatment for prostate problems. They also treat high blood pressure. Be sure your doctor knows if you take these medications.
  • If you’ve had a heart attack or have heart disease and you have not had sex for a while, talk to your doctor. Having sex again can put extra strain on your heart. Your doctor can confirm that your heart is healthy enough for sex.
  • It is rare, but some men taking ED medications have had sudden vision loss. This may be more likely if other health problems are present. These include high blood pressure and diabetes. Ask your doctor if you are at risk for this type of vision loss.
  • In rare cases, an erection may last too long. This can badly damage the blood vessels in your penis. If an erection lasts longer than 4 hours, go to the emergency room right away.