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Common Concerns And Adverse Effects Of Erectile Dysfunction Drugs

May 31st, 2016

Common Concerns And Adverse Effects Of Erectile Dysfunction Drugs

Common Concerns And Adverse Effects Of Erectile Dysfunction Drugs

Erectile Dysfunction (ED), also known as impotence is a worrisome condition for men especially those over 40 years of age. It occurs as a consequence of reduced blood flow to the penis during sexual arousal or due to neurological dysfunction; thereby culminating in poor quality of sex life.

Three FDA-Cleared oral drugs, namely Cialis, Viagra and Levitra are commonly prescribed to manage this condition. These drugs act by increasing the blood flow to the penis by causing enhanced release of Nitric Oxide. However, just like other pharmacological agents these ED drugs are also not free of side effects. Following is a brief explanation of common side effects associated with these drugs as this information is important for users.

1. Headaches:

All phosphodiesterase inhibitors exert their action by increasing the release of nitric oxide (a chemical mediator that enhances the circulation of blood); therefore all PDE- inhibitors are associated with moderate to severe headaches. The pathophysiology revolves around aggravated blood flow to the brain vessels under the influence of PDE- inhibitors along with penile vessels. If the pain gets bothersome, talk to your doctor about possible ways to alleviate it.

2. Generalized Body Aches:

One very distressing side effect of ED drugs is the occurrence of generalized and dull body aches. Some people also report lower back pain. Cialis is most frequently associated with this adverse effect (when compared to other PDE-inhibitors). This side-effect can be overcome with OTC pain medication like NSAIDS, but should never be taken without the advice of the treating physician.

3. Gastrointestinal Upset:

Most PDE-inhibitors are linked to stomach and intestinal disorders like indigestion, heartburn and loose stools in some genetically susceptible individuals. Again, OTC medications are available to resolve these complaints. Your doctor may also advice dietary and lifestyle modifications like replacing caffeinated beverages and alcohol with plain water or healthy drinks, taking probiotics and avoiding heavy, spicy meals with these drugs.

4. Dizziness And Fainting:Living With Erectile Dysfunction image

Some ED drugs especially Levitra has been associated with dizziness and light headedness. In poorly managed cases, this may disrupt day-to-day activities activities. Pathophysiology of dizziness is linked to enhanced level of Nitric oxide in the blood. Less commonly, fainting episodes may occur which can aggravate the risk of accidental trauma to the body. So always, consult your doctor regarding these issues and look for alternative solutions to address your problems.

5. Visual Disturbances:

The mayo Clinic reports that Levitra and Viagra have been shown to increase the risk of visual damage. The symptoms include difficulty seeing in dim light, loss of peripheral eyesight, blue vision or complete blindness. ED drugs are also contraindicated in serious disorders of retina.

6. Flushing Of Skin:

Redness of skin especially of the face is another common side effect of ED drugs. Viagra and Levitra are the primary culprits in this regard. The redness can be in the form of mild blemishes or severe eruptive rashes on the skin. These are usually not so troublesome but may intensify (especially under sunlight or after ingesting spicy foods and alcohol).

7) Nasal Congestion Or Discharge:

Congested, stuffy and runny nose can be another common side effect of ED drugs. These symptoms are usually mild in nature and subside on their own without the needing any remedy.

How To Recognize Rare But Serious Side effects Of Erectile Dysfunction Drugs?

There are certain side effects of ED drugs that are uncommon but can endanger the health of patients. These include:

1. Priapism:

This refers to protracted and painful contraction of the muscles of the penis. If the erection continues for more than four hours, immediately go to emergency department and seek urgent care in order to avoid permanent tissue damage.

2. Auditory Changes:

Rarely, changes in hearing can occur even after the effect of the drug has been worn off. It should be kept in mind.

3. Interactions With Other Drugs/Chemicals:

There are possible interactions of ED drugs when used in combination with Nitrates, oral antihypertensive medication and alcohol, especially dangerous dropping of blood pressure.

In short, all medicines for erectile dysfunction may pose adverse effects. There need to be a serious discussion between the patient and the doctor before starting these drugs. Any side effect should be reported to the physician. For some men, none of the drug may suit and they have to turn to other treatment options like vacuum pumps or penile surgery.


1. Chan, T., Narasimhan, C., & Xie, Y. (2013). Treatment effectiveness and side effects: A model of physician learning. Management Science, 59(6), 1309-1325.

2. Izadi, S., De Silva, S. R., Sculfor, D., Benjamin, L., & Downes, S. M. (2012). Persistant bilateral relative central scotomas induced by taking an excessive dose of sildenafil. Acta ophthalmologica, 90(6), e496-e498.

3. Chao, J. K., Thomas, I., & Hwang, S. (2013). Contemporary management of erectile dysfunction. Urological Science, 24(2), 35-40.

4. Ventimiglia, E., Capogrosso, P., Montorsi, F., & Salonia, A. (2016). The safety of phosphodiesterase type 5 inhibitors for erectile dysfunction. Expert opinion on drug safety.

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