Erectile Dysfunction Medications

First Step in Erectile Dysfunction Treatment

Most men who are experiencing erectile dysfunction (ED) visit their primary care physician as a first step in treatment. Depending on your particular situation, your primary care physician may start by recommending lifestyle changes to see if they help with your ED. Losing weight, reducing alcohol consumption, quitting smoking, and reducing stress can reduce the incidence of ED.

Your primary care physician also may test for other medical conditions. ED can be a symptom of underlying medical conditions such as diabetes and heart disease. Prostate cancer treatments and surgery also can cause ED, but it is usually temporary. And certain prescription medications, like those for high blood pressure and depression, may cause ED, so make sure your physician is aware of all the medications you’re taking. Read more about ED causes.

Oral Medications for Erectile Dysfunction

After assessing other medical conditions and your medications — and if lifestyle changes don’t help — your physician may recommend you try oral erectile dysfunction medications. These medications work by increasing blood flow to the penis, so erections are easier to get and maintain. Some of the most common ED oral medications include: avanafil (Stendra), sildenafil (Viagra), tadalafil (Cialis) and vardenafil (Levitra, Staxyn).

ED medications vary in terms of how long they take to work and how long they last. These medications are usually taken about an hour before anticipated sexual activity, and last about four hours.

Your physician will recommend the medication he or she thinks will work best for you. Oral ED medications are phosphodiesterase type 5 (PDE5) inhibitors and, while the various brands are similar in how they work, some types are more effective for some men. If one type isn’t working for you or you experience side effects, ask your doctor about switching to a different medication. According to the International Society for Sexual Medicine and AMS Men’s Health, common side effects of ED medications can include:

  • Headache
  • Nasal congestion, runny nose
  • Flushing, redness in the face
  • Indigestion or upset stomach

Less common side effects for which you should seek medical attention right away include:

  • Vision changes, including blurred vision
  • Hearing problems
  • An erection that lasts more than four hours

Erectile dysfunction medications may not be recommended for men who are taking alpha-blockers for high blood pressure or prostate enlargement or for men who are taking nitrate medications for chest pain. Your primary care physician or Denver urologist will talk with you about using oral ED medications in combination with other medications you’re taking. 

If oral ED medications don’t work for you, don’t despair — there are other erectile dysfunction treatments available. Learn about low-testosterone therapy, injections and suppositories, vacuum devices, and penile implants.



Men’s Health: Erectile Dysfunction, AMS Men’s Health


International Society for Sexual Medicine: