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Viagra vs. Cialis: Knowing the Difference

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Viagra and Cialis are two of the most popular medications for treating erectile dysfunction (ED), but how do you know which one is right for you? Some men aren’t worried about what’s written on their prescription, they just want a pill that works. We get you, but hear us out: the meds you take make a difference, and they have important potential side effects to know about.
We want you to find the right solution for your ED, but we want it to be more than a quick fix. That’s why we’re delving into the details behind Viagra vs. Cialis, so you can truly understand what each medication does and how it may impact your health.

Let’s get started with the basics.

Cialis vs. Viagra: What’s the Difference?

Cialis uses phosphodiesterase type 5 inhibitors such as tadalafil to promote healthy sexual performance. Viagra uses sildenafil, a phosphodiesterase (PDE) inhibitor. What does any of that actually mean?

  • Phosphodiesterase inhibitors are medications that stimulate blood vessel dilation while relaxing muscles in certain parts of the body, like the genitals.
  • These medications act on enzymes called phosphodiesterases, which affect cellular function, hormonal production, and more.
  • Phosphodiesterase 5 (PDE5) inactivates cGMP, a messenger molecule that affects blood vessel dilation and other important functions.

That sounds like a lot of complicated science jargon, but here’s how it translates into everyday terms:

Both Viagra and Cialis function the same way — they stop the enzyme PDE5, which regulates blood flow. In doing so, they increase blood flow to the penis, making it easier to get and maintain an erection.

Viagra 101

The most famous ED medication on the market is Viagra. It was originally developed to treat chest pain, but researchers realized its potential as a promising treatment option for ED.

Since the FDA approved Viagra in 1998, it has been prescribed to millions of men in both its brand form and as the generic sildenafil.

Just to be clear, Viagra is not an aphrodisiac. It should only be taken by men who have been diagnosed with ED and given a prescription by a licensed medical professional. Taking Viagra if you don’t have erectile dysfunction could cause the condition and lead to other serious side effects.

Cialis 101

The FDA approval of Cialis (sold under the generic tadalafil) in 2003. Although it was late to the ED treatment party, it quickly gained attention for its long-lasting effects, which earned it the nickname “the weekend pill.”

Although it can effectively treat ED in some patients, Cialis can also be prescribed for men with an enlarged prostate (benign prostatic hyperplasia).

If you’re wondering whether CIalis or Viagra is better, they function almost identically and are almost equally effective. The real difference lies in how each one lasts.
Cialis lasts for 24 to 36 hours depending on the dosage; Viagra typically lasts around four hours, with the strongest effects occurring two hours after taking the pill.

How Cialis and Viagra Work

Clias and Viagra both block the PDE5 enzyme, which improves erections by increasing bloodflow and relaxing the penile muscles.

The ability to get and maintain an erection can enhance your sex life, especially if your erectile dysfunction has negatively affected your self-confidence in the bedroom or compromised intimacy in your relationship.

Keep in mind that neither medication is an aphrodisiac. If you aren’t in the mood, don’t expect an erection to magically appear. Instead, these medications help your body do what you want it to when you are aroused.

Does Cialis and Viagra Last Longer?

Cialis lasts longer than Viagra with an average duration of 24 to 36 hours; Viagra lasts up to four hours. Some men prefer Cialis because it allows them to be more spontaneous in their sex lives, which feels more natural than taking Viagra and planning ahead for intimacy.

A meta-analysis of 16 trials found that there were no noticeable differences between how the drugs worked, but they did find that men who took Cialis felt more confident.

For those looking to have sex frequently, or more than once a day, then Cialis could be the better choice. If you only need short-term ED relief when you are planning to be intimate, then Viagra can work well.

Are Cialis or Viagra Affected by Food?

Cialis is fast-acting and is not generally affected by food, but there is a caveat — grapefruit and grapefruit juice can increase its presence in your bloodstream, which could lead to complications.

Taking Viagra or Cialis too soon after a high-fat meal could diminish its effects and make it take longer to work.

If you notice that either pill takes longer to work for you after eating, consider opting for a lighter meal versus something heavy.

Cialis Side Effects vs Viagra Side Effects

The potential side effects of Cialis and Viagra are similar and may include:

  • Flushing
  • Back and muscle pain
  • Headaches
  • Nausea and upset stomach


Common Cialis Side Effects

Potential side effects of tadalafil include:

  • Headaches
  • Feeling nauseous
  • Facial flushing
  • Hot flashes
  • Nasal congestion
  • Muscle aches
  • Limb pain

Common Viagra Side Effects

Potential side effects of sildenafil include:

  • Headaches
  • Dizziness
  • Nausea
  • Flushing
  • Hot flashes
  • Indigestion

Although many people tolerate these drugs without an issue, there is always a potential for undesirable side effects. If you experience any type of reaction from taking these drugs, stop using them and contact your doctor. They may need to adjust your dosage.

Another important side effect to take note of is a painful erection. In rare cases, Cialis or Viagra could cause priapism, a painful erection that does not go away. This is a serious condition that requires emergency medical care, so seek urgent treatment if you have a progressively worsening erection that increases in pain and does not resolve within four hours.

Cialis and Viagra Interactions

There is potential for Cialis or Viagra to negatively interact with certain medications, so it is vital to be 100% upfront with your doctor about your medical history before requesting a prescription.

Treating ED should never come at the cost of your health. So, it’s important for you to be completely transparent with your doctor.
Potential complications from Cialis and Viagra can arise due to nitrates, which can increase the risk of a heart attack and cause symptoms such as dizziness, lightheadedness, and fainting.

Other potential interactions may arise from mixing either drug with:

  • Certain antibiotics
  • Alpha blockers
  • Oral antifungal medications
  • Hypertension medications
  • HIV protease inhibitors
  • Erectile dysfunction medications
  • Guanylate cyclase stimulators

Furthermore, if you use any type of recreational drug (like marijuana, cocaine, or psilocybin), be sure to let your doctor know before taking Cialis or Viagra. Although they may seem unrelated, drugs impact your body in various ways, and they could be dangerous to take along with any medication.

Cialis and Viagra Dosages

Your doctor will recommend the right dosage for your needs. Both drugs are taken orally as tablets.

Cialis is available in four doses:

  • 2.5 mg
  • 5 mg
  • 10 mg
  • 20 mg

The 2.5- and 5-mg prescriptions are known as Cialias Daily. These are low-dose tablets designed for men who want to have spontaneous sex frequently and prefer using a daily medication to always have the help they need when the time strikes.

The 10-mg dosage of Cialis is a common starting prescription. Higher doses may be needed in patients whose ED is not responsive to lower dosages. Keep in mind that you can always talk to your doctor about adjusting your prescription; it’s always best to start low and increase as needed.

Viagra has three dosages available:

  • 25 mg
  • 50 mg
  • 100 mg

As you’ll notice, Viagra tablets come in larger doses. This is because of their active ingredients. The standard dose of Viagra is 50 mg, though men with mild erectile dysfunction may be fine with 25 mg.

For patients who have severe ED or do not notice improvement with lower doses, doctors can prescribe a maximum of 100 mg of Viagra.


Which Is Better: Cialis or Viagra?

The good news is that both Cialis and Viagra do the same thing: improve your ability to get an erection when you want to. They are the gold standard for managing erectile dysfunction in both young and older men.

At Phoenix, we offer prescriptions for both to help you find your match. For those looking to take a longer lasting drug that could help them have more spontaneous sex, Cialis might be the best choice.

Those who are okay with planning ahead and do not want longer effects can give Viagra a try.

Not sure where to begin? We can help. Schedule a virtual visit with one of our doctor today. We’re here to help you treat ED effectively.


Sources:

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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.

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