5 Things Every Man Needs to Know about Erectile Dysfunction Medication

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5 Things Every Man Needs to Know about ED DrugsJorg Greuel

Erectile dysfunction (ED), once viewed as an issue primarily affecting older men, is reportedly soaring among millennials. Researchers indicate that one in four new ED patients are now under 40. A recent study by Coop Pharmacy, surveying 2,000 British men, revealed that half of those in their thirties struggled with achieving or maintaining an erection – a higher rate than men in their forties or fifties.

Here's five things you need to know before taking erectile dysfunction medication.

Hard Times

It’s more common than you might think: in a survey by Pharmacy Direct GB, about half of respondents said they experience ED (erectile dysfunction) at least some of the time. It’s estimated about 40% of cases are psychogenic, triggered by stress or anxiety. Poor diet, alcohol and lack of exercise also contribute, along with diabetes and heart disease. You may just need a change in lifestyle, so speak to your doctor before medicating, says James O’Donovan (@doctorodonovan).

Working Stiff

ED is largely caused by the narrowing or blocking of arteries directing blood to the penis. Sildenafil (aka Viagra, its brand name) restricts the production of PDE5, the enzyme responsible for muscle contraction and relaxation, and regulating blood flow to the penis. The drug takes about an hour to kick in, but that doesn’t mean an instant hard-on. ‘You’ll need to be sexually excited for that to happen,’ says Dr O’Donovan.

Know Your RX

In the UK, sildenafil is licensed for men aged 18 and over, and it can be bought without a prescription – although you should check with your pharmacist or GP first to see if it’s suitable for you. ‘Sildenafil tablets come in different strengths, which range from 25mg to 100mg,’ says Dr O’Donovan. Some individuals may need a lower dose than others, but the go-to is 50mg, taken up to four hours before you plan to get down to action.

Top of the Pops

If Viagra isn’t for you, again, speak to a doctor. Avanafil, vardenafil and tadalafil also inhibit PDE5 – but they are prescription-only. Although you can get them privately, the NHS only signs off on them for certain health conditions. Responses differ, too: avanafil and vardenafil may act within 15 and 25 minutes and last four and five hours, while tadalafil may give spontaneous erections if taken daily over a period of three to five days.

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Christian Kargl

The Downsides

Here’s the less sexy bit: none of these drugs are advised if you take nitrates for angina or high blood pressure. Side effects are rare, but if your erection is painful or lasts more than two hours, you should seek medical attention urgently. ‘Some people with low blood pressure should avoid taking [sildenafil] because it can make you feel light-headed or faint,’ says Dr O’Donovan. Not very suave.

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