Daily Health

How Long Does it Take for Sildenafil to Work?

Finding a treatment that works for anyone living with erectile dysfunction is crucial for taking back control of your sexual life and health.

Sildenafil — commonly known by its brand name Viagra — is a medication designed to treat erectile dysfunction. This medication can be taken once per day and takes roughly an hour to fully enter the system and begin working.

In this article, we will discuss how long it takes sildenafil to work, as well as answer many key questions you likely have about the drug.  

What is sildenafil?

Sildenafil is a medication that belongs to a drug classification known as phosphodiesterase (PDE) inhibitors.  

PDE inhibitors help promote better blood flow in the body by dilating the blood vessels and relaxing the muscles – two key factors that help achieve a longer-lasting erection.  

The brand name for sildenafil is Viagra, a well-known medication used for treating erectile dysfunction (ED). Sildenafil is also available as a generic drug, with the generic version of the medication regarded as equally effective as the name brand version.

How does sildenafil work to treat ED?  

Sildenafil works by inhibiting the breakdown of phosphodiesterase-5 which, in turn, stops the breakdown of cGMP and increases overall levels of cGMP.  

An important factor in sildenafil working properly is sexual stimulation. Sexual stimulation results in the release of nitric oxide, activating the enzyme guanylate cyclase and making increased cGMP levels possible.  

One study of the use of sildenafil for treating ED states that the treatment is highly effective with a “good safety and tolerability profile in men with ED.” The worldwide prevalence of ED is currently increasing, with an expected 322 million men being affected by 2025, according to a 2022 report on erectile dysfunction statistics.  

Additionally, one out of every ten men is expected to experience ED at some point in their lifespan. With this high prevalence, it is crucial for people to have access to sildenafil and other ED medications to properly treat the condition.  

How to use sildenafil?

Sildenafil is taken orally in pill or tablet form. One standard dose of sildenafil is typically 50 mg for people aged 65 or younger or 25 mg for people aged 65 or older.  

The medication is not approved for use by anyone under the age of 18. If you are taking the liquid or injection form, you need to consult with your healthcare practitioner on how to administer the medication.  

Sildenafil should not be taken more than once per day, as the medication can take up to 24 hours to leave your system fully.  

How long does sildenafil take to start working?

In general, it is recommended to take sildenafil one hour before you plan on having sexual intercourse. This is the standard amount of time it takes to begin seeing the effects of the medication. However, you can take sildenafil anywhere from 30 minutes to four hours before sexual activity.  

The effects of sildenafil can last for up to four hours — erections lasting longer than four hours are considered a medical emergency and medical attention should be sought out immediately.  

What can I do to make sildenafil work faster?

There is no medically-recommended way to make sildenafil work faster. There are, however, certain actions and lifestyle changes you can take to ensure nothing is inhibiting the speed or effectiveness of the prescription drug.

This can include:

  • Avoiding high-fat meals before use: High-fat meals take longer for your body to fully break down. As such, if you eat a high-fat meal when taking the medication, it can inhibit your body’s ability to absorb sildenafil and cause the medication to take longer to work.  
  • Avoiding alcohol: Alcohol is inherently a depressant, which among other things, can make it far more difficult to achieve an erection. While moderate amounts of alcohol are not dangerous to mix with sildenafil, you should generally avoid alcohol as it can negatively impact the drug’s effectiveness.  

How long does sildenafil last?

The effects of sildenafil can last up to four hours once it enters the system. If you experience effects of sildenafil that persist longer than four hours, you should contact a healthcare practitioner immediately.  

It is of the utmost importance to understand that while effects may only last four hours, sildenafil can stay in your system for up to 24 hours. This makes it dangerous to take more than one dose in a 24-hour period.  

Does Viagra make you last longer?  

During sexual activity and intercourse, Viagra (sildenafil) can help your erection to last longer. However, the drug is not intended for recreational use or longer-lasting sex.

This medication is specifically designed to treat people with erectile dysfunction or impotence who cannot achieve a lasting erection on their own. Taking sildenafil without a prescription can lead to unwanted and unintended consequences. For instance, overuse or misuse of Viagra can lead to a rare condition called priapism, a painful and prolonged erection that requires immediate medical attention.  

More common side effects associated with recreational use of Viagra include:  

  • Headaches and dizziness
  • Nausea
  • Congestion
  • Heartburn

How long do other ED medications last?

Regarding other ED medications, such as vardenafil (brand name Levitra) or tadalafil (brand name Cialis), these drugs can vary in how long they last. Vardenafil lasts a similar amount of time to sildenafil, taking between 30 minutes to an hour to take effect and lasting for approximately four hours.  

On the other hand, the average amount of time it takes for tadalafil to reach maximum concentration is, on average, 120 minutes. However, this can range from between 30 to 360 minutes.  

How to make sildenafil work better?

There is no way to make sildenafil work better other than practicing healthy lifestyle habits and avoiding fatty foods and alcohol. You should also avoid taking over-the-counter drugs or medications that boost sexual performance without first consulting with your healthcare practitioner on the safety of these drug interactions.  

Additionally, you should never take more than the recommended dose of sildenafil in an effort to make it work better. Taking more than the recommended dose will only result in unwanted side effects — and potentially a trip to the hospital.  

Viagra isn’t working, what should I do?

If your sildenafil or Viagra prescription is not working, the first step to always take is to talk with your healthcare practitioner that provided the prescription. In many cases, if your prescription is not working, your dosage may be problematic.  

A healthcare practitioner can safely determine a new dosage for you to try and assess how the dosages compare to each other. Moreover, if you are experiencing negative side effects from your sildenafil prescription, stop using the medication and contact a healthcare practitioner immediately.  

Can sildenafil produce permanent effects?

Sildenafil is regarded as a treatment for erectile dysfunction, not a cure. If you stop using sildenafil, you may begin to see the symptoms and side effects of your ED return

Most patients who take sildenafil as treatment tend to show a high level of satisfaction with the treatment, according to a four-year study on sildenafil treatment for ED.  

Can external factors affect sildenafil?

Yes, external factors can affect sildenafil.

As we have covered, specific food items like fatty foods can affect how well sildenafil works. Additionally, a person’s overall diet and age can also affect the drug’s effectiveness.  

For example, as a person ages, their body may become more susceptible to the drug and its side effects, leading to a lower recommended dose for people over 65. Dose adjustments are also often required for patients with renal or hepatic impairment.  

Take a look at Drugs.com — a free online educational resource for prescription drugs — where you can see all 306 of the drug interactions associated with sildenafil.  

Sildenafil vs. other ED medications

When comparing sildenafil to other ED medications, the truth is that they have all been proven to help treat ED when used correctly.  

These medications include sildenafil, tadalafil, and vardenafil — all of which are PDE inhibitors in a medication class called PDE5is.Choosing the right medication for yourself requires the guidance of a trained healthcare practitioner.  

Key Takeaways

Sildenafil is a prescription drug better known as Viagra that is commonly prescribed to treat erectile dysfunction. In terms of how long it takes sildenafil to work, the drug typically takes between 30 minutes to an hour to begin working, producing up to four hours of effects. Once again, contact a healthcare practitioner immediately if you experience side effects or an erection lasting longer than 4 hours.

If you are ready to speak to a healthcare practitioner about erectile dysfunction, get started with Felix today.  

WRITTEN BY
Felix Team
Updated on:
August 30, 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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