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Erectile dysfunction (ED), also called impotence, can affect your quality of life by decreasing your satisfaction from sex. ED can have many causes, both psychological and physical. ED from physical causes is fairly common in men as they age. Medications are available that can help treat ED for many men.

The most well-known ED medications include:

  • tadalafil (Cialis)
  • sildenafil (Viagra)
  • vardenafil (Levitra)
  • avanafil (Stendra)

These prescription drugs increase the levels of nitric oxide in your blood. Nitric oxide is a vasodilator, meaning it makes your blood vessels widen to help increase the blood flow. These drugs are especially effective at widening the blood vessels in your penis. More blood in your penis makes it much easier for you to get and maintain an erection when you are sexually aroused.

However, these drugs can also cause side some effects. Here are seven of the most common side effects from ED medications.


Headaches are the most common side effect associated with ED medications. The sudden change in blood flow from the increased levels of nitric oxide causes the headaches.

This side effect is common with all forms of ED medications, so switching brands won’t necessarily alleviate your symptoms. If you have headaches from your ED drug, talk with your doctor about how to prevent them.

Body aches and pains

Some people have muscle aches and pains throughout their bodies while taking ED medications. Others have reported specific pain in their lower back. If you have these types of pain while taking ED medication, over-the-counter (OTC) pain medication may help.

However, you should talk with your doctor about other possible causes of your pain. Your doctor can help you choose an OTC medication that is safe to take with your ED medications and with any other medications you take.

Digestive system problems

Your ED medication may cause uncomfortable digestive system side effects. The most common are indigestion and diarrhea.

To help relieve minor problems, consider making dietary changes to reduce upset stomach. Drinking water instead of caffeinated beverages, alcohol, or juice may help. If changing your diet doesn’t work, talk with your doctor about OTC remedies that may help.


An increase in nitric oxide can cause some men to become dizzy. The dizziness caused by ED medications is generally mild. However, any dizziness can cause discomfort during everyday activities.

In rare cases, dizziness from ED medications has led to fainting, which can become a serious health issue. You should tell your doctor if you experience dizziness while taking ED medications. If you faint while taking these medications, see your doctor right away.

Vision changes

ED medications can change the way you see things — literally. They can temporarily alter your eyesight and even cause blurry vision. ED medications aren’t recommended if you have had vision loss, or a retinal disorder called retinitis pigmentosa.

A complete loss of vision or changes that don’t go away can signify a more serious issue with your ED medication. Seek emergency medical care if you experience these symptoms.


Flushes are temporary periods of redness of the skin. Flushes usually develop on your face and may also spread to parts of your body. Flushes can be mild, like blotchy skin, or severe, like rashes. Although the appearance may make you uncomfortable, flushes typically aren’t harmful.

Flushes from ED medications may get worse when you:

  • eat hot or spicy foods
  • drink alcohol
  • are outside in warm temperatures

Congestion and runny nose

Congestion or a runny or stuffy nose can be a common symptom of ED medications. In most cases, these side effects go away without treatment. Talk with your doctor if they persist.

Minor side effects are common when taking ED medication. Still, there are a few side effects that aren’t as common, and some can even be dangerous. Severe side effects of ED medications can include:

  • priapism (erections that last longer than 4 hours)
  • sudden changes in hearing
  • vision loss

If you have concerns about ED, it’s important to talk with your doctor. Not only is this common condition treatable, but ED may also be an early sign of an underlying medical problem. Sometimes, treating the underlying cause may also help alleviate ED.

Talk with your doctor if you are at risk of developing, or currently have, the following conditions:

Additionally, ED is more common after the age of 50 and in those who smoke and drink alcohol. You can talk with your doctor about such risk factors and whether ED treatments are appropriate for your situation.

When discussing ED treatment with your doctor, it’s important to tell them about all drugs you take and other health conditions you have. If medications aren’t right for your ED, your doctor may suggest other treatment options, such as surgery or vacuum pumps.

If your doctor does prescribe medications for ED treatment, it’s important to contact them immediately if you experience any severe side effects.

Certain people are more at risk of these side effects than others. This may be because of other conditions they have or other medications they take.

What’s the safest drug for erectile dysfunction?

If you’re concerned about side effects or have any underlying medical conditions, you may consider talking with your doctor about the second-generation PDE5 drug avanafil (Stendra). Unlike older ED medications, avanafil has been linked with a lower rate of side effects.

However, if you currently take nitrates for a heart condition, no ED medication is safe because of potential interactions. Instead, your doctor may recommend an alternative treatment, such as testosterone therapy or surgery.

Which erectile dysfunction drug has the least side effects?

While ED treatment side effects can vary by person, vardenafil (Levitra) may pose the least number of side effects of all first-generation PDE5 drugs. It’s thought this may be due to the higher potency of this medication, which could mean you may need to take a lower dose for it to work effectively.

Additionally, avanafil may also pose fewer side effects than older ED medications.

What is the fastest way to cure ED?

ED itself isn’t curable, but you may be able to treat its symptoms and underlying causes. You may experience ED symptoms again several hours after you stop taking related medications.

If your doctor does recommend you take ED medications, you can expect results in:

  • 15 to 30 minutes with avanafil
  • 30 to 45 minutes with tadalafil
  • 30 to 60 minutes with either sildenafil or vardenafil

ED is a common condition with many treatment options available. Prescription ED medications can help by increasing penile vasodilation when you’re sexually aroused.

However, ED medications may also pose a risk of side effects. While some are minor, others may be more serious, particularly if you have an underlying health condition.

Talk with your doctor about all the benefits and potential risks associated with ED medications, and whether this treatment method is your best option.