Maybe you've recently been dealing with a bout of erectile dysfunction, or perhaps you've been struggling with it for a while. In either case, you may be wondering how ED medication works, as it is a pretty impressively effective treatment for erectile dysfunction for the majority of men. The most commonly prescribed ED medications are PDE5 inhibitors, which do all sorts of amazing things within a man's body to help him achieve and maintain an erection.
But how do they work? Are there side effects? How long do they last, and what should a man do if they don't work?
First and foremost, let's cover the basics.
Bloodflow and Erections: The Complete Process of Developing an Erection
Before we understand how ED medications work, it's important to understand exactly what happens in the body when you're aroused and how an erection is formed. This is a complicated process, and there are many steps to it.
When a man becomes aroused, an area in the brain called the hypothalamus releases a hormone called GnRH. This hormone stimulates the pituitary gland, which in turn releases two hormones: luteinizing hormone (LH) and follicle stimulating hormone (FSH). LH and FSH then travel to the testicles, stimulating the production of testosterone.
Testosterone is the main male hormone responsible for sexual arousal. It causes an increase in blood flow to the penis and triggers the release of nitric oxide in the corpus cavernosum. Nitric oxide is a chemical that causes the smooth muscle cells of the penis to relax, allowing for an increased flow of blood into the penis.
As more blood enters the penis, it becomes engorged and erect. At the same time, the smooth muscle of the penis contracts, trapping the blood inside the penis and preventing it from leaving. This process is known as the erection reflex.
When you've reached orgasm, a hormone called prolactin is released, which causes the smooth muscle of the penis to relax and the blood to be pumped out of the penis. This causes the penis to shrink back to its flaccid state.
How Does ED Medication Work?
ED medications work by blocking the action of an enzyme known as PDE5, which is responsible for breaking down a substance called cyclic guanosine monophosphate (cGMP). When cGMP is blocked from breaking down, it allows more blood to flow to the penis, resulting in an erection. The medications also cause the muscles in the penis to relax, allowing more blood to flow into the penis. The amount of time it takes for the medication to take effect varies depending on the medication, but most ED medications work within 30 minutes.
This complex process is regulated by hormones and neurotransmitters, allowing for an erection to occur. The erection can last up to 4 hours, and the effects of the medication will typically last up to 36 hours, depending on the type.
Erections are caused by a combination of physical and psychological factors, and ED medications can help to address the physical factors that contribute to ED. However, it is important to note that ED medications do not address the psychological factors that may be causing ED, such as depression or anxiety. If you are experiencing ED, it is important to speak to a doctor to determine the underlying cause and to determine the best course of treatment.
You still have to become aroused emotionally in order to get an erection, even if you are taking ED medications. If you are not aroused, the ED medications will not work. ED medications should not be used as a replacement for sexual stimulation.
Types of Erectile Dysfunction Medications
There are several types of ED medications available, including:
Cialis: Cialis (tadalafil) is a PDE5 inhibitor that is taken orally. Cialis can be taken as needed, and its effects can last up to 36 hours. This means you can take a dose and become errect up to 36 hours later after becoming aroused. The most common side effects are headache, indigestion, back pain, muscle pain, and facial flushing.
Levitra: Levitra (vardenafil) is another PDE5 inhibitor that is taken orally. Levitra is taken as needed, and its effects can last up to 4-5 hours. The most common side effects are headache, flushing, stuffy or runny nose, and indigestion.
Viagra: Viagra (sildenafil) is the most well-known ED medication. Viagra is taken orally and its effects can last up to 4 hours. The most common side effects are headache, flushing, and indigestion.
Stendra: Stendra (avanafil) is a newer PDE5 inhibitor that is taken orally. Stendra can be taken as needed, and its effects can last up to 6 hours. The most common side effects are headache, flushing, and nasal congestion.
There are also several other ED treatments available, such as penile injections, suppositories, vacuum pumps, and surgical implants. It is important to discuss the best treatment option for you with your doctor.
The Most Common Side Effects
ED medications tend to have similar risks and side effects. The risks may be present while the medication is in the body, and may even last longer than the drug itself (e.g. with tadalafil). When it comes to side effects, the most common are:
Headaches: Typically mild in nature, but associated with nearly all ED drugs.
Congestion: A stuffy nose or nasal congestion may occur.
Dizziness: Feelings of dizziness may be present, and can be severe for people with underlying health conditions.
Muscle and Back Pain: Aches may be felt in the muscles and/or back when taking ED medication.
Facial Flush: This can range from facial redness to a rash-like look, with sildenafil being the most likely to cause this symptom.
Vision Issues: A rare side effect, but temporary blurry vision and/or blue-tinted vision may occur. If experienced, it is important to seek medical help immediately.
Digestive Issues: Upset stomach, diarrhea, indigestion and bloating may happen when taking ED drugs. These issues may be worsened by consuming alcohol, caffeine, carbonated drinks and dairy products.
Rhinitus and Dyspepsia: These two conditions may also occur with ED drugs. Rhinitus is a condition of the nose that causes swelling, itching and mucus buildup, while dyspepsia is a condition that leads to indigestion or upset stomach.
What To Expect When Trying an Erectile Dysfunction Medication
If you've been prescribed an erectile dysfunction medication, the first step is to discuss the benefits and risks with your doctor. This will help you decide if this is the right option for you.
When it comes to taking the medication, the most important thing to remember is to take it exactly as prescribed. This means following the instructions for how much to take, when to take it, and how long to wait before having sex.
It's also important to know that while erectile dysfunction medications can help, they don't work for everyone. You may need to try a few different medications or doses to find the one that works best for you.
Viagra: If you've been prescribed Viagra, you should take it 30-60 minutes before sexual activity. Most men find that it takes effect in as little as 30 minutes, and it can last for up to four hours.
Cialis: The cool thing about Cialis is that it can be taken either as needed or on a daily basis. If you take it as needed, you should take it anywhere before 30 minutes and up to 36 hours before sexual activity. If you take it on a daily basis, you'll usually take it at the same time each day, and it can help you have a more spontaneous sex life.
Levitra: Unlike Viagra and Cialis, Levitra is taken only when needed. That means you should take it anywhere from 25 minutes to an hour before sexual activity. It can last for up to five hours.
In general, it's important to remember that erectile dysfunction medications may not work for everyone and that it's important to talk to your doctor about any side effects you may experience.
How Long Do Erectile Dysfunction Medications Last?
In order to answer this question, it is important to note that there is no single answer as there are many different types of erectile dysfunction medications, each with their own duration of action. Generally speaking, however, the medications listed below typically last between 4-36 hours:
- Sildenafil (Viagra): 4-6 hours
- Tadalafil (Cialis): .5-36 hours
- Vardenafil (Levitra): 4-5 hours
- Avanafil (Stendra): 6-12 hours
- Alprostadil (Caverject, Edex): 15-60 minutes
Half-Life: What Does This Phrase Mean?
Half-life is a term used to describe the amount of time it takes for the concentration of a medication in the body to drop by half of its peak value. For instance, if a person takes a 50mg dose of sildenafil (Viagra), the potency of the drug will reduce to approximately 25mg after one half-life has passed.
So, the half-life of a drug is what determines how long it will remain active in the body. As a general rule for erectile dysfunction medications, they can still provide some effects after one half-life, but will become gradually less effective as the body eliminates and excretes them.
By the time two to three half-lives have passed, the effects of the drug will be completely gone and it won’t provide the same benefits that it did initially.
When Should I Take My ED Medication?
Regardless of how long your medication lasts, they should be taken around 30 minutes to and hour before you expect to engage in sexual activity. This will help ensure the medication is active in your system when needed. This gives your body enough time to process the medication and get it into your system, so you get the most out of it.
And as always, you should prioritize the guidance given to you by your doctor over any general advice. Be sure to follow their instructions for taking your medications and follow the dosage information carefully.
Are ED Medications Expensive?
The cost of ED medications can vary depending on the type of medication and the dosage. Generic versions of ED medications may be less expensive than brand-name versions. In some cases, insurance plans may cover the cost of ED medications. It is best to speak to your doctor and insurance provider to determine the cost of ED medications.
The factors that influence the cost of ED medications include the type of medication, the dosage, and the quantity. So, the cost of ED medications can vary, but if you were to go with an off-brand generic version, it may be far more inexpensive than a brand-name version. It'll also cost less if you use the medication less often, as opposed to taking it daily. For this, you should weigh the cost of the medication with the cost of a doctor's visit or over-the-counter medications.
This blog post is for educational purposes only and does not constitute medical or other professional advice. Your specific circumstances should be discussed with a healthcare provider. All statements of opinion represent the writers' judgement at the time of publication and are subject to change. Phoenix and its affiliates provide no express or implied endorsements of third parties or their advice, opinions, information, products, or services.