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7 Alternatives to Viagra

Treating erectile dysfunction

Key points

  1. Viagra can be very effective in treating ED, but it’s not right for everybody.
  2. There are several other oral medications for ED, including Cialis and Levitra.
  3. You can also treat your ED naturally through supplements or acupuncture.

When you think of erectile dysfunction (ED), you probably think of Viagra. That’s because Viagra was the first oral pill to treat ED. It was approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) in 1998.

Viagra can be very effective in treating ED, but it’s not right for everybody. Continue reading to learn about other ED drugs, as well as some alternative methods of treating ED.

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Alternative medications

Alternative medications for erectile dysfunction (ED)

Although Viagra is considered to be the most common medication for ED, there are quite a few on the market. They all work by improving blood flow to the penis so that you can get and maintain an erection long enough to have sex.

Because of each medication’s unique chemical makeup, you may react differently to each of them. It may take a little trial and error to determine which one works best for you.

Taking oral medications generally isn’t enough to provide an erection. These medications are designed to work alongside physical or emotional sexual stimulation to prompt an erection.

Other prescription medications used to treat ED include:

Tadalafil (Cialis)

Cialis is an oral tablet that starts to work about half an hour after you take it. It can improve erectile function for up to 36 hours. The starting dose is 10 milligrams (mg), but it can be increased or decreased as necessary. You take it as needed, but never more than once a day. Cialis can be taken with or without food.

There’s also a once-a-day version. These 2.5-mg tablets must be taken at the same time every day.

Vardenafil (Levitra)

You should take Levitra about one hour before sexual activity. The starting dose is usually 10 mg. You shouldn’t take it more than one in a day. These oral tablets can be taken with or without food.

Vardenafil (Staxyn)

Staxyn differs from the other ED drugs in that you don’t swallow it with water. The tablet is placed on your tongue and allowed to dissolve. You should do this about an hour before sexual activity.

You shouldn’t crush or split the tablet. It can be taken with or without meals, but not with liquids. The tablets contain 10 mg of medication that shouldn’t be taken more than once a day.

Avanafil (Stendra)

Stendra comes in 50, 100, and 200-mg tablets. You take it about 15 to 30 minutes before sexual activity, but never more than once a day. It can be taken with or without food.

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Risk factors and side effects

Risk factors and side effects

Before taking any ED medication, tell your doctor about any preexisting health conditions you have. You should also discuss any other drugs or supplements you’re currently taking. Some ED medications can interact with other medications and cause serious side effects.

You shouldn’t take ED medications if you:

  • take nitrates, which are usually prescribed for chest pain (angina)
  • have low blood pressure (hypotension)

Additionally, your doctor may advise against taking ED medications if you:

  • take certain other medications that may interact with the ED medication
  • have uncontrolled high blood pressure (hypertension)
  • have liver disease
  • are on dialysis due to kidney disease

The most common side effects of ED drugs are temporary. They include:

  • headache
  • indigestion or upset stomach
  • back pain
  • muscle aches
  • flushing
  • stuffy or runny nose

Although it’s uncommon, some ED drugs can cause a painful erection that won’t go away. This is known as priapism. If an erection lasts too long, it can damage your penis. If your erection lasts more than four hours, you should seek immediate medical attention.

Other uncommon symptoms of ED medication are changes to hearing and vision, including color vision.

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Natural remedies

Natural remedies for erectile dysfunction (ED)

If you take medication for other health conditions, you may not be able to take an oral medication for ED. Although there are a few natural remedies that may work to relieve your symptoms, more research is needed to determine the efficacy. Many products claim to cure ED, but there isn’t always enough research that backs up those claims.

Whatever alternatives you choose, it’s best to discuss it with your doctor before use. They can help you decide whether this is the best option for you.

L-arginine

L-arginine is an amino acid. One 1999 study found that oral L-arginine was no better than a placebo in treating ED, but another study found some evidence that high doses of L-arginine can improve blood flow and help ED. Potential side effects of use include nausea, cramps, and diarrhea. You shouldn’t take this if you take Viagra.  

Learn more: The facts about L-arginine supplements and erectile dysfunction »

Red ginseng

Red ginseng is an herbal supplement. A 2008 systemic review of seven studies found that red ginseng may be effective in treating ED. Researchers cautioned that more high-quality studies are needed to better determine the potential benefits and risks of this supplement.

If you plan on trying ginseng, you should speak to your doctor about dosing. Side effects may include headache, sleep problems, and gastrointestinal problems.

Tell your doctor if you’re taking other medications because they can interact with the supplement and lead to harmful side effects. Ginseng may lower blood sugar levels, so it should be used with caution if you take medication for diabetes.

Acupuncture

Acupuncture is an ancient healing practice used for a variety of conditions. Although it’s been suggested that acupuncture can treat ED, there’s little evidence regarding its efficacy.

A 2016 systemic review failed to prove that acupuncture alone was effective in treating ED. The authors did note the small sample size and poor quality of the studies involved. More research is needed.

If you’re considering acupuncture, search for a qualified and certified practitioner.

Check out: Melatonin: A treatment for erectile dysfunction? »

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Takeaway

What you can do now

ED may be a symptom of an underlying medical condition, so consult your doctor. You should also mention any other symptoms you may be experiencing. They can help you determine whether your ED is isolated or related to something else. Treating the underlying condition may resolve the problem.

Other tips to keep in mind while treating ED:

  • Always take ED medications exactly as directed. Talk to your doctor before increasing the dose, and report any troubling side effects.
  • Don’t mix treatments. Taking an oral medication while using a natural remedy may cause harmful side effects.
  • Natural doesn’t always mean safe. Herbal or other dietary supplements can interact with medications. When considering something new, consult with your doctor or pharmacist, and be sure to report side effects.

Aside from drugs and herbal remedies, certain lifestyle factors can contribute to ED. Whatever treatment you choose, it may help if you also:

  • Avoid or limit alcohol use.
  • Quit smoking.
  • Maintain a healthy weight.
  • Get sufficient sleep every night.
  • Engage in regular exercise, including aerobic exercise.
  • Try pelvic floor exercises. A small 2005 study concluded that pelvic floor exercises should be a first-line approach in treating ED.

Other methods to treat ED include blood vessel surgery, vacuum pumps, and penile implants. If the problem persists, talk to your doctor about these and other alternatives.

Keep reading: Effective OTC treatments for erectile dysfunction »

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