Some men with erectile dysfunction, or ED, find they can return to an active sex life by treating an underlying condition, such as high blood pressure, or with counseling and lifestyle changes. But others find they may need medication to get and keep an erection.
The FDA has approved several prescription drugs you take orally to treat ED.
What Medications Are Available?
All of these work by relaxing your muscles and boosting blood flow to your penis, making erections easier to get and maintain. They are:
- avanafil (Stendra)
- sildenafil (Viagra)
- tadalafil (Cialis)
- vardenafil (Levitra, Staxyn)
Caution: Do not use these ED medications if you take nitrates, such as nitroglycerin or a similar medicine, for chest pain. The combination can cause dangerously low blood pressure.
Are There Differences in Them?
These medications all work similarly to each other. However, there are subtle differences in how long they stay effective and how quickly they begin to work.
Levitra takes about 30 minutes to start working and the effects last a little longer than Viagra, about 5 hours.
Staxyn dissolves in your mouth. It contains the same active ingredient as Levitra and can begin working in about 15 minutes.
Viagra takes around 30 minutes to become effective and lasts about 4 hours.
Cialis lasts much longer — up to 36 hours in some cases.
Stendra can start doing its thing in as little as 15 minutes, and its effects last up to 6 hours.
Can I Make a Switch?
Yes. You may find that one works better for your schedule or that there are differences in the side effects for you. But these medications work the same basic way, so you’re likely to have similar results.
What Precautions Should I Take?
Again, do not use these ED medications if you take nitrates, such as nitroglycerin or a similar medicine, for chest pain. But there are other situations that may make these medications unsafe as well. Before you take Viagra or one of the others, tell your doctor:
If you are allergic to any medications, including other ED medications
About any prescription or nonprescription medications you take, as well as any herbal and dietary supplements
If you are scheduled for surgery, even dental surgery
If you take alpha-blockers for blood pressure or prostate problems. These can lower your blood pressure when taken with ED pills.
Always follow the directions on your prescription label carefully. Also, make sure to ask your doctor or pharmacist to explain anything you don’t understand. Take these drugs exactly as directed.