February 23, 2023 4:45 pm

Did you know that some medications for erectile dysfunction (ED) can have serious side effects that go far beyond the bedroom? From sudden vision loss to increased risk of heart attack, these drugs can have a significant impact on your health.

If you're curious to learn more about the potential risks associated with these medications, keep reading – the answers may surprise you.

Episode Video

A Recap On How To Get An Erection

It all starts in the brain. There are six systems involve in getting an erection: the brain, emotion, hormones, nerves, blood vessels, and muscles. Your brain and muscles have to relax. You have to relax.

Your brain will relay messages to your emotions. How are you feeling? Are you feeling relaxed, do you feel anxious, or are you feeling depressed? Do you have feeling of a rush and distracted?

Next are the hormones that get released in your brain. These hormones will then stimulate the nerves in the back of your head and to your heart. Then your heart pumps up more blood to your blood vessels. Lastly, the blood will go to your penis muscles.

Thus in order for you to get an erection, your brain has to relax, your emotions have to be in the right spot, and your penis muscle has to relax.

How ED Medications Works

ed medication
d Photographer: Michał Parzuchowski | Source: Unsplash

ED medications goes to your penis muscle and inhibits the breakdown of a chemical called Cyclic GMP. That way you have more of that in the penis muscle, and that relaxes the smooth muscle of the penis. That's how these medications helps with erection.

Viagra, Cialis, or Levitra works on the smooth muscle of the penis. However, as you know, ED is really a blood flow problem. It starts in the endothelium. Endothelium is the lining of the blood vessels that secretes nitric oxide. The endothelium is impaired by either high blood pressure, diabetes, high cholesterol, obesity, stress, not getting enough sleep, smoking, drinking too much alcohol, or taking certain drugs.

When you take medications for ED, it's going directly to your penis smooth muscle. It doesn't do anything to the blood vessels at all. As you know, the blood flow problem is really what's behind ED. But what these medications does is it just goes to the penis smooth muscle. It does not address poor blood flow problems due to endothelial dysfunction.

Medications More Likely To Cause ED

  • Antidepressants such as Zoloft, Paxil, Celexa, Prozac, and Elavil.
  • Antiulcer medications particularly Tagamet, Pepcid, and Zantac.
  • Beta blockers such as propranolol, timolol, and penbutolol.
  • Diuretics like Diuril, Aldactone, and Thalitone.
  • Tranquilizers such as or Valium, Mellaril, or Librium.
  • Miscellaneous medications such as finasteride (for hair loss), estrogens, anti-androgens, antihistamines, anticholinergics, and some anticancer drugs.

Medications Less Likely To Cause ED

  • ACE inhibitors such as captopril, enalapril, and ramipril.
  • Calcium-channel blockers which is Cardizem, Procardia, and verapamil.
  • Nitrates like is Isordil, and Imdur or Ismo.

Side Effects of ED Medications

side effect of ed medication to penis
Photographer: Pawel Czerwinski | Source: Unsplash

The most common side effects of ED medications are headaches, facial flushing, and indigestion. Vision problems, including changes in color vision, blurry vision, sensitivity to light, and hearing changes are other side effects these medications as well. ED medications can also cause low blood pressure which can lead to dizziness, lightheadedness, or fainting. This is especially true if you take these drugs with other medications that lower blood pressure or consume alcohol.

In rare cases, ED medications can also cause priapism, a prolonged and painful erection that lasts more than four hours. If you experience priapism, seek medical attention immediately, as it can lead to permanent damage to the penis.

It's essential to note that ED medications is not suitable for everyone, especially those with certain medical conditions or who take specific medications.

Effectiveness of ED Medications in Treating ED

In one study, Viagra was found to be effective in 69% of men with ED, compared to 22% of men who received a placebo. Placebo meaning, just a sugar pill. In another study, Cialis was found to be effective in 81% of men with ED, compared to 35% of men who received a placebo.

The effectiveness of these medications can also depend on the underlying cause of ED. For example, if ED is caused by a physical condition, such as diabetes or cardiovascular disease, medications may be less effective than if ED is caused by a psychological condition, such as anxiety or depression.

Onset of ED Medications

The onset of ED medications may be affected by the consumption of a fatty meal within 1-2 hours prior to taking the medication.


Viagra typically begins to take effect within 30 to 60 minutes of ingestion. Optimal effectiveness may take up to two hours to reach. The duration of Viagra's action is estimated at 4-6 hours.


Cialis typically begins to take effect within 30 to 60 minutes of ingestion. Maximum effectiveness may take up to two hours. Cialis has a longer duration of action than Viagra, lasting for 24 to 36 hours.


Levitra generally begins to take effect within 30 to 60 minutes of ingestion. It may take up to two hours for the medication to reach its peak efficacy. The duration of action is comparable to that of Viagra, typically lasting four to six hours.

Furthermore, the efficacy of these drugs may be impacted by elements including age, preexisting health conditions, and other medications.

Cost of ED Medications

The cost of erectile dysfunction medications can vary due to several factors, such as the type of drug, dose, pharmacy and insurance coverage. Without insurance, the cost may range from several hundred dollars; however, generic drugs are typically cheaper.

Medication Interactions

Certain medications may interfere with the effectiveness of ED medications, potentially leading to dangerous interactions. Examples of such medications include:


Commonly use for treating chest pain and heart disease by relaxing blood vessels and lowering blood pressure. However, when taken with ED medications, they can cause a dangerous drop in blood pressure. This can result to serious health issues such as fainting, dizziness and heart attack.


Use for treating high blood pressure and prostate enlargement. These medications can also lower blood pressure and interact with ED medications, causing a potentially dangerous drop in blood pressure.

Protease inhibitors

Use for treating HIV and other viral infections, can interfere with the metabolism of ED medications. This will lead to higher blood levels and an increase risk of side effects.

Other medications

Antifungal medications, some antibiotics, and some antidepressants can also interfere with ED medications.

In conclusion, it's crucial to talk to your doctor about all the medications you are taking before starting ED treatment. If you are taking any of the medications mentioned above, your doctor may recommend an alternative treatment. Your doctor may also adjust your dose of ED medications to avoid potentially dangerous interactions.

Additional Resources

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