Daily Health

Do You Need a Prescription for Viagra?

Viagra is a prescription medication –– you’ll need to talk to a healthcare provider before you begin taking Viagra. While Viagra is safe and effective for the treatment of ED, there are some solid reasons why you can’t purchase it over the counter.

Viagra, or sildenafil, was the first oral pill approved by the FDA to treat erectile dysfunction. Pfizer released Viagra in 1998 and, since then, generic versions of the drug have become available, too. 

Viagra, along with other ED medications such as Cialis (tadalafil) and Levitra (vardenafil), functions as a phosphodiesterase 5 (PDE5) inhibitor. 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. (Note that ED medication doesn’t cause spontaneous erections without stimulation — so don’t worry, you’re not at risk of getting an erection on, say, the subway.)

Keep reading to find out:

  • Why you need a prescription for Viagra
  • How to get a prescription for Viagra
  • The dangers and prevalence of counterfeit Viagra
  • Lifestyle choices that can help improve your erections

Why you need a prescription for Viagra

Does Viagra require a prescription? Yes, and it’s because you’ll need to work with a healthcare provider to monitor for side effects and avoid potential drug interactions.

Potential side effects of Viagra

Before you sound the alarms: Viagra is considered safe, and serious side effects are rare. 

But 15% of people who take Viagra experience some side effects, even though most of them are mild. Here are some common, less serious side effects of Viagra: 

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

But if you experience any of these symptoms, stop taking Viagra and seek immediate medical attention:

  • Priapism — a prolonged erection that lasts more than four hours
  • Sudden vision change or loss
  • Sudden hearing loss or ringing in the ears
  • An allergic reaction like lip or face swelling, wheezing or trouble breathing, hives
  • Chest pain, shortness of breath, dizziness, or nausea during sex

Potential drug interactions with Viagra

When you get a prescription for Viagra, your healthcare provider will ask whether you’re taking any other medications. It’s important to be honest about your other prescriptions, so your doctor can give you the best advice about taking Viagra.  

Viagra shouldn’t be used with medications that lower blood pressure, particularly nitrates — nitrates are an absolute contraindication to PDE5 inhibitors like Viagra. People who are taking nitrates cannot, under any circumstances, use ED medication.

Alpha blockers, antihypertensives, and riociguat can be taken with Viagra, but only under supervision because there are some specifics about how to take the medications together. 

Antibiotics, antifungals, and HIV protease inhibitor drugs are all processed in the liver, just like Viagra. That means they can increase the amount of Viagra in your body, which can cause unwanted side effects. The dose of Viagra would need to be adjusted with this in mind. 

And what about drugs that decrease the effect of Viagra on your erections? Anticonvulsants (like phenytoin or carbamazepine) and an antibiotic called rifampin can all cause Viagra to not do its job.

A final heads up on interactions: Alcohol and grapefruit juice can also increase the likelihood that you’ll experience Viagra side effects.  

How to get prescription for Viagra

Getting a prescription for Viagra isn’t … hard. 

Erectile dysfunction is common and you don’t need to be a certain age to get a prescription for Viagra. If you’re generally healthy and aren’t taking any medications that interact with Viagra, a healthcare provider will usually write you a prescription after an assessment of your symptoms. 

But we get it — talking about ED is uncomfortable. Some people think it’s embarrassing when they can’t maintain an erection, and the thought of asking for medication to help can seem mortifying. 

The thing is, erectile dysfunction is a lot more common than people think. According to a 2020 study by researchers for the International Society for Sexual Medicine, erectile dysfunction can see rates as high as 48.6% in some countries for people over 18. Recent studies suggest a 50% prevalence for people over the age of 40.

If you feel comfortable enough talking about ED to seek a prescription for Viagra, there are three ways to get it:

  1. Your doctor’s office
  2. A specialist’s office
  3. Online

Visiting your doctor’s office

Erectile dysfunction is so common we’re willing to bet your doctor has written at least a few prescriptions for Viagra before. Sexual health is an important part of overall health, and your doctor is trained to recognize the importance of a satisfying sex life.

When you visit your doctor and ask for a prescription for Viagra, they’ll ask you a series of questions about your symptoms. Depending on your situation, your doctor may prescribe Viagra or an alternative ED medication after walking you through your options. 

If you feel nervous about how to talk to your doctor about ED, try using this checklist to help you find the right words. 

Visiting a specialist

Sometimes ED is a symptom of an underlying condition. If your doctor is concerned your ED is an indicator of a more serious problem, they may send you to a specialist who can run some additional tests. 

Erectile dysfunction has been linked to:

  • Diabetes
  • Heart disease
  • Hormone abnormalities, such as low testosterone
  • HIV
  • Multiple sclerosis
  • Depression and anxiety

Your doctor may refer you to an endocrinologist, urologist, or even a therapist if they suspect your ED is caused by something more serious. If that’s the case, a specialist may prescribe Viagra to treat ED symptoms while investigating other health concerns. 

Getting a prescription for Viagra online

You can also get a prescription for Viagra online through a telehealth platform like Felix. 

When you get Viagra online through Felix, you’ll submit information about your medical history and symptoms. Within 24 hours, a healthcare provider will contact you for further information and to present you with several options. If Viagra is right for you, you’ll get a prescription delivered to your door.   

Getting a prescription for Viagra online is a good option if you want to keep things discreet and convenient. If you decide on this option, just make sure you’re getting Viagra from a licensed medical professional. 

Beware of counterfeit Viagra

Viagra is in high demand — and it’s one of the most counterfeited drugs in the world. Even though it’s against the law to sell Viagra without a prescription, people all over the world are doing it. 

Counterfeit Viagra is dangerous. When you purchase fake Viagra from an online seller, you may be at risk of ingesting: 

  • Blue printer ink (Viagra is the “little blue pill” after all!)
  • Amphetamines
  • Antibiotics, especially metronidazole
  • Drywall 

Counterfeit Viagra may also have too much of the active ingredient sildenafil. Viagra is typically taken at a dose of 50mg about one hour before sex. Your doctor may want to increase your dose to 100mg if the initial dose is ineffective, but you may also want to reduce your dose to 25mg if you’re seeing side effects. 

When you purchase counterfeit Viagra, you have no way of knowing how much Viagra you’re actually taking. Always take Viagra under the supervision of a licensed medical professional, who can properly monitor your dose and any side effects. 

Don’t forget: You can improve your erections without medication, too.

It’s okay to take medication for erectile dysfunction. You deserve a healthy sex life, and if medication will help with your overall sexual health, don’t feel ashamed that you need it. 

But medication may be just one of many ways to help you stay hard. Besides medication, you’ll also want to consider these angles: 

Psychological and interpersonal changes that can improve sexual health

Building intimacy with other people can seem intimidating. Fear of intimacy and anxiety about sexual performance can affect your ability to get and maintain an erection. 

The good news is that you can take steps to improve your relationship with sex and reduce some of the pressure to perform. Here’s how:

  1. Reconsider your sexual preferences: Are you having the type of (consensual) sex you want to have? Sexual stigma can make it difficult to accept when we have fetishes, kinks, or preferences that live outside of heteronormativity — but when we embrace these things in ourselves, it often leads to better sex. 
  2. Communicate with your partner(s): Are you facing any emotional barriers with your partner(s) that may prevent you from enjoying sex with them? Be honest and open about any issues so you can work past them and (hopefully) have better sex. 
  3. Try toys with your partner(s): Penetrative sex with your penis isn’t the only kind of sex you can have. Try introducing toys or more oral sex to take some of the pressure off your penis to perform. 
  4. Reassess your porn consumption: Watching porn isn’t inherently bad, but it can be if you’re replacing intimacy with porn. Be thoughtful about your porn consumption and try to reduce your watch time if you think it’s a problem. 
  5. Get help for depression and anxiety: If you’re looking for mental health support in Canada, check out this resource to get started

Lifestyle changes that can improve your sex life

Before you start comparing ED meds, you may want to consider making small lifestyle changes to improve your erections. Here are five things you can do today: 

  1. Quit smoking
  2. Eat a balanced diet that decreases blood pressure and controls blood sugar
  3. Reduce stress
  4. Reduce alcohol consumption
  5. Get more sleep

Whether you decide to take Viagra or not, taking steps to improve your sex life is an act of self-love. Learn more about which ED prescription may be right for you by starting an online assessment with one of our doctors today

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 Active Ingredients, are not a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. If you have any medical questions or concerns, please talk to your healthcare provider.

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