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Viagra, ED, and Alcoholic Drinks

Introduction

Erectile dysfunction (ED) is a problem with getting and maintaining an erection that’s firm enough to have sexual intercourse. All men have trouble getting an erection from time to time, and the likelihood of this problem increases with age. If it happens to you often, though, you may have ED.

Viagra is a prescription drug that can help men with erectile dysfunction. For many people, romance means candlelight, soft music, and a glass of wine. The little blue pill, Viagra, can be part of this picture, but only if you drink small or moderate amounts of alcohol.

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Viagra and alcohol

Viagra and alcohol

Drinking alcohol in moderation seems to be safe when you take Viagra. There seems to be no clear sign that the risks of alcohol use are made worse by Viagra. A study published in Clinical Pharmacology and Therapeutics found no adverse reactions between Viagra and red wine. However, research on this topic is limited.

Still, just because Viagra and alcohol don’t seem to interact doesn’t mean that it’s a good idea to use them together. This is because chronic alcohol use is a common cause of ED. It’s so common, in fact, that a slang term for ED in Great Britain is “brewer’s droop.” So while you’re treating ED with Viagra, you may be doing yourself a disservice by mixing the drug with alcohol.

Read more: 5 common causes of ED, plus treatment and prevention tips »

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Alcohol effects

Alcohol and ED

Scientists at Loyola University reviewed 25 years of research on the effects of alcohol use on the male reproductive system. Here are some of their findings. These effects have to do with alcohol in general and are not specific to combining Viagra with alcohol. Still, if you have erectile dysfunction, you may want to consider how alcohol can influence your sexual health and performance.

Effects on testosterone and estrogen

Both binge drinking and chronic alcohol use can affect testosterone and estrogen levels.

Testosterone in men is made in the testes. It plays a role in many functions of the body. It’s also the hormone most closely linked to male sexuality, and it’s responsible for the development of sexual organs and sperm.

Estrogen is mainly a female hormone, but it’s also found in men. It’s linked with the development of female sexual characteristics and reproduction.

If you’re a man, consuming more than a moderate amount of alcohol may lower your testosterone levels and raise your estrogen levels. Reduced testosterone levels combined with higher levels of estrogen may feminize your body. Your breasts may grow or you may lose body hair.

Effects on the testicles

Alcohol is toxic to testicles. Sources say consuming a lot of alcohol over time can cause shrinkage in your testicles. This reduces the volume and quality of your sperm.

Effects on the prostate

According to some sources, alcohol abuse may be associated with prostatitis (inflammation of the prostate gland). Symptoms may include swelling, pain, and problems with urination. Prostatitis may also be linked with erectile dysfunction.

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Causes

Causes of erectile dysfunction

To understand why ED happens, it helps to know how an erection occurs. An erection actually starts in your head. When you become aroused, signals in your brain travel to other parts of your body. Your heart rate and blood flow increase. Chemicals are triggered that make blood flow into hollow chambers in your penis. This causes an erection.

In ED, however, an enzyme called protein phosphodiesterase type 5 (PDE5) interferes with this process. As a result, there’s not an increase in blood flow to the arteries in your penis. This stops you from getting an erection.

ED can be caused by a number of factors. These can include health issues such as:

  • increasing age
  • diabetes
  • medications, such as diuretics, blood pressure drugs, and antidepressants
  • multiple sclerosis
  • thyroid disease
  • Parkinson’s disease
  • high blood pressure
  • peripheral vascular disease
  • prostate cancer, if you’ve had your prostate removed
  • depression
  • anxiety

You can address some of these issues by trying these exercises to eliminate ED. Erectile dysfunction can also be caused by your habits, however. These can include:

  • smoking
  • illegal drug use
  • chronic alcohol use
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Using Viagra

How Viagra works

Viagra is the brand-name version of the drug sildenafil citrate. It was originally made to treat high blood pressure and chest pain, but clinical trials found it was not as effective as drugs that were already on the market. However, study participants showed an unusual side effect: a significant increase in erections. In 1998, Viagra was the first oral medication approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to treat ED.

Weill Cornell Medical College reports that Viagra works for about 65 percent of men who try it. It does so by blocking PDE5. This is the enzyme that interferes with the increase of blood flow to the penis during an erection.

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Takeaway

Keeping the goal in mind

As for mixing Viagra and alcohol, a glass of wine isn’t dangerous. It may help you relax and enhance the romance. Keep in mind, though, that moderate or heavy alcohol use may make ED worse, which is counterproductive to taking Viagra.

If you have ED, you’re far from alone. The Urology Care Foundation says that between 15 and 30 million men in the United States have ED. There are many options for treating ED, so talk with your doctor about it. If you’re unsure where to start, check out Healthline’s guide to talking with your doctor about ED.

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