Viagra has built up some serious street cred as a miracle pill to boost sexual satisfaction but how much of the drug's reputation is actually based on fact? We talk to Stuart Gale, chief pharmacist and owner of www.oxfordonlinepharmacy.co.uk, and the site's dedicated GP, Dr Helen Webberley, about some of the most frequently asked questions that those accessing this most famous of erectile dysfunction medications want to know:

Viagra

Viagra

Q: How do the pills work?

A: Viagra was originally designed as an anti-angina medication, due to the fact that it opens up the arteries and increases blood flow to the heart. During tests, researchers noticed that the medication also increased blood flow to other parts of the body, including the penis.

Q: Is Viagra the only pill available to treat erectile dysfunction (ED)?

A: No, there are a number of medications you can take: Viagra (also sold in its generic, much cheaper form Sildenafil), Cialis (Tadalafil), Levitra (Vardenafil) and Spedra (Avanafil). These are all prescription only medicines.

Q: How do these medications differ from one other?

A: Viagra and Levitra typically take 60 minutes before they work, and the effects may last up to eight hours. Cialis usually takes 30 minutes to work and can last up to 36 hours. Spedra is fast acting and takes 15 minutes to work. The effects last up to 5 hours. You should only take one pill in any 24-hour period.

Q: How can I ensure that when I take the medication, it is as effective as possible?

A: To maximise efficacy, before taking this prescription medication you should avoid heavy meals and alcohol.

Q: What happens if I take the medication but then don't have sex?

A: The pills need sexual stimulation in order for them to work properly. If the pills are not 'activated' they do not cause an erection.

Q: Is the medication still used to treat heart disease?

A: While Viagra is safe to take for people with angina, it may well be a moot point as sexual activity may not be advised if you have heart disease.

Q: What are the effects of Viagra on women?

A: There is research currently underway to better understand the effects of the drug on women but, at present, it is only licensed for use in men. Practically speaking, the medication also works to increase the blood flow to the clitoris in women, but it doesn't help to create desire or boost sexual arousal, which is often the key barrier with female sexual dysfunction.

Q: What are the side effects of taking Viagra

A: The main side effects are a stuffy nose, hot flushes and headaches. Some men report a blue visual disturbance on taking the medication, but this often settles down relatively quickly.

Q: The pill doesn't work for me, what other ED treatments are available?

A: Many men know about the pills they can take, but there are also other options including a cream (Vitaros), which can be applied directly to the hole, little pellets inserted into the hole (Muse) and injections (Caverject or Viridal) which can be administered directly to the penis. These options may sound less appealing but they actually work very well. Often men suffering with erectile dysfunction lose their nerve and get stuck in a spiral of fear of failure. These treatments can provide the necessary kick-start they need to get everything going again.

Q: Will taking ED medication make me want to have more sex?

A: ED medication does not boost your sex drive. However, if your symptoms are driven by stress or other psychological issues, knowing that you are physically able to respond to your partner can greatly improve any negative feelings you may have towards sex.

Q: If you do not suffer from ED, what effect will taking the medication have?

A: People who do not suffer from ED but who choose to routinely take ED medication for recreational purposes, can find themselves in a situation where they become dependent on the medication to get an erection, causing ED.

Medication created to treat erectile dysfunction can have an overwhelmingly positive effect on the lives of sufferers however, as with any prescription only medication, abuse can adversely affect your health.


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