Oral Medications

The advent of these drugs has helped many men restore erectile function. These drugs belong to a group of drugs called c-GMP Phosphodiesterase Inhibitors.

Viagra® was originally intended to treat angina or chest pain. During early clinical trials, some of these patients noticed an improvement in their erectile function. Its therapeutic indication was then changed to Erectile Dysfunction. When Viagra® was submitted to the FDA after six months of trials, its approval was "fast-tracked" and the drug was released in March 1998 for the treatment of Erectile Dysfunction. Viagra® alone will not give you an erection; sexual stimulation is necessary for the drug to have an effect.

These drugs are not for everybody and are not without risks. It is estimated that between 30-70 % of men do not respond to these drugs depending on their age and underlying health problems. Many cannot take these drugs due to contraindications, and at least 15% suffer from undesirable side-effects. With the exception of specific differences, these drugs have more or less the same clinical effects.

Important facts about Viagra®, Cialis, and Levitra

  • It must be taken one hour before sex on an empty stomach. Alcohol must be avoided.
  • They are contra-indicated in patients taking nitrates and in those with certain heart conditions. It is known to potentiate the effects of nitrates, causing blood pressure to drop to dangerous levels.
  • They are taken orally and are systemically absorbed. Hence, it can cause systemic side-effects such as headache, dizziness, fainting, flushing, stuffy nose, dyspepsia, diarrhea, blurred vision, altered color perception, pain in the eyeballs, or even temporary loss of vision.
  • Palpitations and anxiety are commonly reported.

An alleged link between these pills and development of permanent blindness was made public in May 2005. Despite the drug maker's position that there was no evidence to support the causality, the FDA has enforced a new label to warn men of the possible side-effect. The condition, called "non-arteritic anterior ischemic optic neuropathy" or NAION, is caused by a blockage of blood flow to the optic nerve.

Risk factors for NAION include diabetes and heart disease, two of the leading causes of Erectile Dysfunction. The agency also identified other risk factors for NAION: being older than 50, smoking, high blood pressure, and high cholesterol. These are notably also the risk factors for Erectile Dysfunction at the first place!