Sildenafil citrate–better known by its brand name, Viagra┬«–is a phosphodiesterase inhibitor used to treat erectile dysfunction (impotence) and low blood pressure (hypotension). It is also prescribed for pulmonary arterial hypertension and approved in over 60 countries for sale outside of the United States. In the U.S., Viagra is a registered trademark of Pfizers Inc. and was first approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) in April 1998.

Since its introduction in 1992, Viagra has become one of the world’s best-selling drugs. According to IMS Health, as of 2017 it was the 10th most prescribed medication in the U.S. A recent global market survey ranked Viagra in the top three most prescribed medication classes–along with its generic equivalent, sildenafil–for men with erectile dysfunction who are either concerned about price or don’t want to use their regular medication. Pricing for the drug ranges between $3 and $7 a pill, depending on the price of the medication in the country where you buy it.

Like many other medications, Viagra has various important side effects that you should know about before taking the drug. Although these are relatively uncommon, especially compared to the benefits of the drug, the potential side effects should not be overlooked. Here, we will discuss six important things you need to know about Viagra.

How Effective Is It?

Viagra is typically very effective for treating erectile dysfunction, with reported success rates of up to 59% in several studies.1,2 In a randomized, placebo-controlled trial of men with erectile dysfunction, oral administration of Viagra resulted in an increased spontaneous erectile activity and improved ability to achieve and maintain an erection, as compared to placebo.2 In a recent study of over 100 men with erectile dysfunction, 86% of participants responded well to a daily dose of Viagra, while only 4% of men on a placebo experienced an improvement.3 In another study, 82% of men with erectile dysfunction were able to successfully engage in sexual activity after taking Viagra for 4 weeks.4 However, not all men will experience the same benefits from the drug; certain patient characteristics may affect the risk of experiencing side effects or losing effectiveness due to age or disease.5 The effectiveness of Viagra in treating erectile dysfunction was recently demonstrated in a meta-analysis of 11 randomized placebo-controlled trials, involving 3,859 men. The analysis concluded that Viagra is an effective therapy for erectile dysfunction and is better than placebo and other medical therapies.1 Similarly, in another meta-analysis of 12 clinical trials involving 3,311 patients, sildenafil was determined to be more effective than placebo in the treatment of erectile dysfunction.2

What Is The Dose Range?

While the recommended initial dose of Viagra is usually between 50 and 100 mg, it should be noted that the recommended dose for some patients with erectile dysfunction may be as low as 25 mg or as high as 400 mg a day. Ideally, your physician will adjust the dose according to your specific needs and level of response. Side effects such as low blood pressure and fainting should not be ignored, and a low starting dose may be prudent in this situation. Similarly, if you have taken other medications that lower blood pressure, such as calcium channel blockers, you should have a starting dose lower than usual.

Are There Any Food Restrictions When Taking Viagra?

When taken on an empty stomach, Viagra is generally recommended to be taken at least 1 hour before (or after) eating a meal. This is particularly important for older patients or men with diabetes, who are more likely to experience a low blood pressure reaction from the drug. If you are concerned about low blood pressure, taking the medication after food may be advisable.

Some patients may also experience a reaction when taking Viagra if they have certain food sensitivities or allergies. Although this is quite rare, it is still important to maintain a list of food allergies and intolerances and consult your physician before taking the medication.

What Are The Most Common Side Effects?

As mentioned above, the most common side effect of Viagra is lowered blood pressure. This is especially dangerous in those with pre-existing hypertension or atherosclerosis, as it may lead to a heart attack or stroke. The risk of this type of reaction is increased if you drink alcohol while taking the medication. Other side effects include headache, flushing, nasal congestion, upset stomach, and diarrhea. While these are relatively common, especially at first, they are generally harmless. If you experience any concerning symptoms, contact your physician.

How Long Do You Need To Take Viagra?

The answer to this question primarily depends on how long you need the medication to treat your erectile dysfunction. Ideally, you should try to treat your erectile dysfunction with the minimal dose needed to achieve an effect. In most cases, this will be a 50 mg dose for the first pill and then a 25 mg dose for subsequent pills. In some instances, however, a higher dose may be needed to achieve an erection (e.g., in men with diabetes or those who have previously experienced side effects from a lower dose). In this situation, it is advisable to consult with your physician.

Is There Anything Else You Should Know?

Like any other medication, Viagra is not for everyone and should only be administered by or under the supervision of a physician. This medication should not be taken by women, children, or anyone with a history of heart disease, stroke, or angina. If you experience any side effects not mentioned here, it may be a sign that you are not suited for this medication. In these cases, your physician may need to adjust the dose or suggest another medication.

In conclusion, Viagra is a very effective medication for the treatment of erectile dysfunction. Because it is a PDE5 inhibitor, it helps to improve the blood flow to the penis, causing an erection to occur more easily. Thanks to its numerous health benefits, favorable side effect profile, and wide availability, Viagra is a medication that everyone can benefit from.

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