Medications Used to Treat Erectile Dysfunction
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Medications Used to Treat Erectile Dysfunction

Treating erectile dysfunction

Erectile dysfunction (ED) is the condition of not being able to get or keep an erection that’s firm enough for sexual intercourse. It’s often caused by an underlying health problem. The National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine estimates that this condition affects 30 million men in the United States. For some men, treatment with drugs may solve their ED. If you’re looking for options to treat your ED, check out the list below. Information such as how to take these drugs and what the side effects are can help you discuss drug treatment options with your doctor.

Find out: What doctors can I talk to about erectile dysfunction »

Drugs for ED

There are many types of drugs used to treat ED. Each drug works differently, but they all improve sexual activity by stimulating blood flow to your penis.

If you have certain health issues, it may not be safe for you to take ED drugs. For instance, if you have heart disease, your heart may not be healthy enough for sex. Make sure you tell your doctor about all health issues you have and the medications you’re taking. This information can help your doctor to decide which drug is best for you.

Alprostadil

Alprostadil (Caverject, Edex, Muse) is used to treat ED. It comes as a solution for injection. You’ll inject it directly into your penis several minutes before having sex. You can use it as needed up to three times per week.

The more common side effects of this drug include:

  • redness and irritation at the injection site

Avanafil

Avanafil (Stendra) is an oral drug used to treat ED. You should take it about 15 minutes before having sex. Don’t take it more than once per day.

You should not use nitrates while taking this drug. Examples include isosorbide and nitroglycerin. Taking nitrates with avanafil can cause severely low blood pressure and even death.

The more common side effects of this drug include:

  • headache
  • flushing (reddening and warming of your face)
  • low blood pressure
  • vision
  • hearing changes such as tinnitus (ringing in your ears) and hearing sounds differently

Sildenafil

Sildenafil (Viagra) is used to treat ED. Viagra is only available as an oral tablet. You should only take it once per day about an hour before sex.

The more common side effects of this drug include:

  • headache
  • flushing
  • upset stomach
  • vision changes

Tadalafil

Tadalafil (Cialis) is an oral drug that increases blood flow throughout your body. You take this drug about 30 minutes before sex. It may work for up to 48 hours.

The more common side effects of this drug include:

  • headache
  • nausea
  • flushing
  • upset stomach
  • vision changes

Testosterone

Testosterone is the main sex hormone in the male body. It plays many roles in overall health. Testosterone levels naturally drop with age. This change can lead to ED and other issues, such as fatigue, low sex drive, reduced sperm count, and weight gain.

Doctors sometimes prescribe testosterone to treat ED. But the drug comes with risks. Testosterone can increase your chance of a heart attack or stroke. Because of these risks, the Food and Drug Administration says that only men who have low testosterone due to certain health issues should use testosterone.

Your doctor will watch you closely if they give you testosterone. They’ll test the levels of testosterone in your body before and during your treatment with this drug. If your testosterone levels are too high, your doctor will stop your treatment or lower your dosage of this drug.

The more common side effects of testosterone include:

  • acne
  • breasts or prostate growth
  • fluid retention that causes swelling
  • moodiness
  • sleep apnea (interrupted breathing during your sleep)

Testosterone comes in many forms used to treat ED. Some forms may be available as generic drugs. The table below lists the forms of testosterone and their brand-name versions.

Testosterone formBrand names
Mucoadhesive that dissolves under your gumsStriant
Transdermal creamFirst Testosterone
Transdermal gelAndroGel, Fortesta, Testim, and Vogelxo
Oral capsule Android and Testred
Transdermal patchAndroderm
Pellet implant (a pellet placed under your skin)Testopel
Solution for intramuscular injectionDepo Testosterone and Aveed
Transdermal solutionAxiron
Nasal gelNatesto
Topical gelAndrogel and Natesto

Vardenafil

Vardenafil (Levitra, Staxyn) is an oral drug used to treat ED. You take it as needed 60 minutes before sex. You can take these drugs up to once per day as recommended by your doctor.

The more common side effects of this drug include:

  • headache
  • nausea
  • dizziness

Vitamins and supplements for ED

There are many vitamins and supplements on the market that claim to help ED. Some promise better sexual function as well as increased energy and vitality. However, these supplements usually don’t work. They may also be unsafe. Some supplements that are marketed as “natural” may even contain drugs. ED supplements can still interact with other medications you’re taking. They may also cause side effects. Talk to your doctor before using any vitamins or supplements for ED.

Before you take ED medications

Not everyone with ED needs to take medications. If you think you have ED, see your primary care doctor. They’ll give you a physical exam. Your ED may be caused by untreated diabetes, high blood pressure, or another issue. Treating that condition first may improve your ED symptoms.

Lifestyle changes to help ED
Sometimes lifestyle choices can contribute to ED. Adopting healthy habits may help improve your symptoms. Try avoiding smoking, maintaining a healthy weight, getting regular exercise, and keeping your alcohol intake in check.

ED may also be caused by other medications you’re taking. These may include drugs used to treat:

  • high blood pressure
  • heart disease
  • depression
  • seizures
  • cancer

Your doctor can look at the drugs you’re currently taking. They may make some changes that can improve your ED.

Read more: 5 natural treatments for ED »

Work with your doctor

If you have signs of ED, keep in mind that the condition often stems from another health problem or a medication you’re taking. Getting treatment for the underlying health issue or having your doctor adjust your drugs may be all that’s needed to ease your ED symptoms.

If you do need ED medications, there are many options. They come in different forms, work in unique ways, and cause their own side effects. Together, you and your doctor can find the best ED medication for you.

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