Daily Health

Can a Woman Take Cialis? Are There Alternatives for Women?

Women deserve a fulfilling sex life. 

We’ll say it again: Women are entitled to feel sexual desire, have satisfying orgasms, and seek answers about their libido when they feel like it could be better.

Sexual dysfunction among women is common and can affect anywhere between 30%–40% of women — which makes our lack of knowledge about sexual dysfunction among women especially frustrating. 

While there isn’t as much research on sexual dysfunction and treatment among women compared to men, some glimmers of evidence-based hope can guide you if you’re struggling to have the kind of sex you want. 

Keep reading to find out whether Cialis is a viable option for you — but more importantly, what you can do to improve your libido if you want better sex. 

What is Cialis and how does it work?

Cialis is the brand name of the generic tadalafil, which is a phosphodiesterase 5 (PDE5) inhibitor similar to Viagra.

In common use, PDE5 inhibitors increase blood flow to the penis by causing the blood vessels in penile tissue to relax. This increased blood flow makes it easier for people to get and maintain an erection with sexual stimulation.

You may be wondering: What’s the difference between Cialis and Viagra? They are very similar, but there are some differences in drug selectivity, which accounts for the slight difference in side effects and the longer half-life of Cialis.

Cialis has been affectionately called the “weekend pill” because it works for about two days. Viagra, however, lasts for two to four hours, with peak levels happening between 30–120 minutes. 

Physical sexual dysfunction in women

Before we discuss treatment options for sexual dysfunction in women, let’s talk about what you may want to treat in the first place. 

There are three primary sources of physical and sexual dysfunction in women:

Sexual pain

“Sexual pain” can refer to dyspareunia, vulvodynia, and vaginismus. 

“Dyspareunia” is a medical term for pain during or after sex. You may experience dyspareunia as pain upon entry, deep pain during thrusting, or throbbing pain that lasts after sexual intercourse. 

Possible causes of dyspareunia include a lack of vaginal lubrication, injury, inflammation of vaginal tissue, infection, congenital abnormality, or vaginismus, which is characterized by involuntary muscle spasms inside the vagina. 

Orgasm disorders

Orgasm disorders include anorgasmia, muted orgasms, premature or delayed orgasm, or anhedonic orgasm. Anorgasmia is the inability to have an orgasm. 

While sometimes caused by psychological stressors or situational factors with sex partners, anorgasmia may also be a physical condition triggered by diseases such as multiple sclerosis and Parkinson's disease, surgeries, medications, alcohol, smoking, or age. 

Hypoactive sexual desire disorder or sexual arousal disorder

Hypoactive sexual desire disorder is a medical term for low libido or lack of sexual desire. While asexuality is a valid sexual orientation that should not be pathologized, HSDD happens when someone is experiencing low libido while wishing they could feel more sexual desire.

HSDD is often caused by a complex interplay of psychological and physical triggers, ranging from anxiety or depression to medication to treat such anxiety or depression, sexual trauma, hormonal changes, menopause, pregnancy, or hormone replacement therapy. 

If you’re experiencing any of the above, it’s important to investigate the physical causes of sexual dysfunction before chalking anything up to psychological triggers. 

Here are some physical reasons you may be experiencing sexual dysfunction:

  • Blood flow disorders: Similar to erectile dysfunction, some research suggests that a lack of blood flow to the vagina, clitoris, or labia can prevent sexual arousal.
  • Medications and treatments: Antidepressants, chemotherapy, and other cancer treatments can disrupt hormones required for sexual arousal.
  • Gynecological conditions: Endometriosis, ovarian cysts, and uterine fibroids can all make sex uncomfortable.
  • Hormonal imbalances or changes: Hormone imbalances or low estrogen levels can cause vaginal dryness, which makes it difficult to enjoy sex.
  • Other diseases: Diabetes, arthritis, multiple sclerosis, and heart disease are among several physical conditions that can make it difficult to become sexually aroused for physical and psychological reasons.

Psychological causes of sexual dysfunction in women

Sexual arousal is complicated — rarely can you ever categorize sexual dysfunction as only physical or psychological. 

Still, psychological factors can stand between you and the sex you deserve. Here’s what you may be experiencing if that’s the case:

  • Depression
  • Anxiety
  • Stress
  • Relationship conflict
  • History of sexual trauma and/or post-traumatic stress disorder

If you think depression and/or anxiety may be contributing to low libido, check out these additional resources that can help:

Different Types of Depression and How You Can Treat Them

How to Identify Different Types of Anxiety

7+ Tips for How to Deal with Depression

90+ Mental Health Resources in Canada

Can a woman take Cialis?

Cialis has not been approved to treat sexual dysfunction in women. 

There’s insufficient and conflicting evidence about whether or not PDE5 inhibitors like Cialis are an effective treatment for people with vaginas, with several published and unpublished studies showing no effect. 

Does Cialis work for low libido in women?

The short and unfortunate answer is that we don’t know whether Cialis can help increase libido and improve sexual function in women. 

There isn’t enough evidence to say one way or the other. 

One study from 2006 demonstrated some benefits for women taking antidepressants, but the sample size was tiny. 

Three women reported improvement after taking 20mg of tadalafil, which seemed to be well tolerated. Other studies show no improvement at all, so the jury’s still out on this one. 

Who can and cannot take Cialis

Cialis is approved for use in adults with penises. You need a prescription for Cialis or any other PDE5 inhibitor, and it’s unlikely that a healthcare practitioner will prescribe Cialis to you if you have a vagina.  

People under the age of 18 can’t take Cialis. Other folks who can’t take PDE5 inhibitors include:

  • People who are allergic to them
  • People who are taking nitrates for chest pain
  • People with serious heart and liver conditions
  • People who have recently had a stroke or a heart attack
  • People with low blood pressure or uncontrolled high blood pressure
  • People with vision loss due to a lack of blood flow to the eye

If you have any of the following conditions, you’ll need to check with a healthcare practitioner before you can take a PDE5 inhibitor:

  • Leukemia 
  • Sickle cell anemia 
  • Peyronie's disease (curved penis) 
  • Kidneys problems
  • Heart conditions

What are the potential side effects of Cialis for women?

Given the lack of research on Cialis and women, we don’t know whether Cialis would cause side effects that are specific to people with female reproductive organs. 

Some research suggests, however, that a Viagra suppository may help some women get pregnant by thickening the uterine lining, but more research is needed to validate this result. This study, for example, was for women undergoing IVF, and it did not examine the use of Viagra to increase rates of pregnancy without assisted technologies.

The study has not been replicated with Cialis. 

We can tell you with more certainty about the side effects of Cialis in people with male reproductive organs:

  • Dizziness
  • Headache
  • Flushing in the face
  • Upset stomach
  • Blurred vision
  • Changes in vision colour
  • Runny or stuffy nose or sore throat
  • Muscle or back pain

Less common and serious side effects include:

  • Priapism — a prolonged erection that lasts more than four hours
  • Heart attack, stroke, cerebrovascular hemorrhage, palpitations, and arrhythmias
  • Vision loss
  • Hearing loss or ringing in the ears
  • Seizures
  • Swelling and pain in the arms and less

Serious side effects require immediate medication attention. If you’re concerned about any side effects, contact a healthcare practitioner. 

What alternative medications can a woman take for low sex drive?

In 2018, Health Canada approved flibanserin (Addyi) to treat low sex drive in women. 

Flibanserin was originally developed as an antidepressant, but it was repurposed to treat hypoactive sexual desire disorder (HSDD). 

The medication targets the 5-HT(1A) and 5-HT(2A) receptors in the brain to decrease serotonin while increasing norepinephrine and dopamine neurotransmitters.

While it’s not totally understood how flibanserin works to improve sexual function in women, researchers think the drug “enhances sexual desire by stimulating excitatory elements of brain function and diminishing the inhibitory response to sexual cues.” 

Common side effects of flibanserin include:

  • Low blood pressure
  • Dizziness
  • Fainting
  • Fatigue 
  • Nausea
  • Drowsiness
  • Insomnia
  • Dry mouth

Serious side effects that require medical attention include:

  • Hives
  • Blistered or peeling skin
  • Wheezing or other breathing problems
  • Difficulty swallowing or speaking
  • Swelling of the face, lips, mouth, or throat
  • Loss of consciousness 

Key takeaways

  • Sexual dysfunction among women is common and can affect anywhere between 30%–40% of women.
  • Cialis has not been approved to treat sexual dysfunction in women.
  • There isn’t enough evidence to support Cialis as a treatment for sexual dysfunction in women. 
  • You need a prescription for Cialis, and it’s unlikely a healthcare practitioner will prescribe Cialis to a person with a vagina. 
  • Given the lack of research on Cialis and women, we don’t know whether Cialis would cause side effects that are specific to people with female reproductive organs.
  • Flibanserin (Addyi) has been approved in Canada to treat low sex drive in women.

Cialis for women FAQs

Can I give my wife Cialis?

Cialis has not been approved to treat sexual dysfunction in women, and there isn’t enough research to determine the efficacy and safety of the drug for people with female reproductive organs. It’s not recommended you give your wife Cialis. 

Can a woman take Cialis?

It’s not recommended that women take Cialis for sexual dysfunction.

After physical and psychological assessments by a health practitioner, flibanserin (Addyi) may be prescribed as an alternative to treat low libido in women if appropriate.

What does Cialis do for a woman?

We don’t know whether Cialis can help increase libido and improve sexual function in women. There isn’t enough evidence to say one way or the other.

What happens if a girl takes Cialis?

Given the lack of research on Cialis and women, we don’t know whether Cialis would cause side effects specific to people with female reproductive organs.

If you would like to learn more about Cialis, speak to a licensed healthcare practitioner at Felix today. 

WRITTEN BY
Felix Team
Updated on:
August 29, 2022
Medically reviewed by
Dr. Sarah Peltz
Urologist, MD, FRCSC
Disclaimer

The views expressed here are those of the author and, as with the rest of the content on Health Guide, are not a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. If you have any medical questions or concerns, please talk to your healthcare practitioner.

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