2018 – the year erectile dysfunction medications became available to purchase on the UK high street. We all know the result of an ED pill – they are designed to stimulate the blood flow to your penis and help you to achieve an erection. Let’s take a closer look at a commonly prescribed erectile dysfunction medication – Sildenafil.
What is Sildenafil?
Sildenafil is a medicine used to treat erectile dysfunction (sexual impotence). It belongs to a group of medications called phosphodiesterase 5 (PDE5) inhibitors and works if you have erection problems by temporarily increasing blood flow to the penis when you get sexually excited. At least two-thirds of men have improved erections after taking it.
How fast does it work?
Sildenafil usually takes 30 to 60 minutes to start working, you will not get an erection immediately after taking a pill. This is because you need to be sexually stimulated in the first place to get an erection.
If you’ve recently had a large, fatty meal, it will likely take longer as this slows the absorption of the drug into your bloodstream. Similarly, drinking alcohol will make the drugs less effective and might increase the time it takes to take effect.
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How much should I take?
In the UK Sildenafil can come in doses of 25mg, 50mg or 100mg. 50mg is the most common dosage and is recommended if you are taking Sildenafil for the first time. Most men find that 50mg is sufficient to treat ED and improve their sexual health. What’s more, Sildenafil is safe to take for a long time. As reported by NHS England, there aren’t any recognised lasting harmful effects from taking it for many months and years, however, you should never exceed one tablet per day.
How long will it last?
The length of time the effect of Sildenafil lasts varies from person to person. Most commonly the result of Sildenafil will start to decrease 2-3 hours after taking it. However, in some instances, it can work for up to 5 hours. There are many factors which impact the time it takes for Sildenafil to work and for how long it remains active and it’s worth stating that your erection will go down once you have ejaculated.
Age: Usually, the older you are, the longer the effect of Sildenafil lasts in your body because the metabolic system gets slower with age.
Food: Taking Sildenafil on an empty stomach allows it to take effect more quickly. The drug usually starts working after about 30 minutes. However, it can take up to 3 hours, especially if you’ve recently had a large, fatty meal as this slows absorption of the drug into your bloodstream.
Alcohol: While it’s not recommended, having a couple of drinks shouldn’t stop the Sildenafil from working. However, drinking anything over three standard units before you take the pill can affect the pill’s efficacy and make it more difficult to get an erection.
Dosage: Sildenafil can come in three dosages: 25mg, 50mg and 100mg. Usually, with a higher dose, the time it takes for Sildenafil to work and for how long it remains effective increases. However, never exceed the recommended dose.
Are there any side effects to ED medication?
Most men who take Sildenafil for ED experience no side effects. If you get these side effects, keep taking the medication, but tell your doctor or pharmacist if these side effects bother you or don’t go away:
- A headache
- Feeling sick
- Hot flushes, including facial flushing
- A colour tinge to your vision or blurred vision
- Stuffy nose
In rare cases, Sildenafil can cause serious side effects and happen in less than 1 in 1,000 people. You should stop taking Sildenafil and tell a doctor straight away if you get:
- Chest pains – if this happens during or after sex, get into a semi-sitting position and try to relax, do not use nitrates to treat your chest pain
- Prolonged and sometimes painful erections – if you have an erection which lasts for more than 4 hours, contact a doctor immediately
- A sudden decrease or loss of vision
- A severe skin reaction – symptoms may include fever, severe peeling and swelling of the skin, blistering of the mouth, genitals and around the eyes
Make sure to seek medical help immediately if you experience serious side effects.
Scott McDougall (MPharm) is a clinical pharmacist and in addition to being Cornerstone’s senior in-house pharmacist, is the co-founder of The Independent Pharmacy, one of the UK’s leading independent online pharmacies.