Daily Health

How to Use Viagra for Best Results

Taking Viagra for the first time can be intimidating and exciting. 

When you’ve been dealing with the frustrations of erectile dysfunction, Viagra can seem like a beacon of hope for your sex life. In Canada, millions of people have benefited from the “little blue pill” since it was first introduced in the late nineties. 

But you may be wondering how to make the most of your first experience with Viagra. Is there a “right” way and a “wrong” way to take Viagra?

First, keep in mind that erectile dysfunction –– and the “quality” of your erections in general –– correlates with a multitude of triggers. Lifestyle factors such as stress, fatigue, and alcohol intake can all contribute to erectile dysfunction. If you’ve decided Viagra is right for you, don’t forget to also take some steps to improve your overall sexual health with lifestyle choices. 

Viagra, however, is clinically proven to treat the symptoms of erectile dysfunction and give you a harder erection. Keep reading to find out more.

What is Viagra?

Viagra, or sildenafil, is the first oral pill to treat erectile dysfunction. Pfizer released Viagra in 1998, and a generic version was released in 2017.

The discovery of Viagra for ED was an accident: Sildenafil was originally developed to treat high blood pressure and angina. During clinical trials, researchers discovered the drug was much more effective at improving erections than treating angina. A happy accident indeed! 

So how does it work? Viagra, a phosphodiesterase 5 (PDE5) inhibitor, breaks down a compound called cyclic GMP, which relaxes erectile tissue in the penis. By blocking the action of PDE5, Viagra helps maintain good blood flow to the penis––which then helps people maintain an erection.

When to take Viagra for best results

For most people, Viagra starts working within 30–60 minutes and lasts for about four hours

But everyone is different. Some people need to take Viagra two hours before sexual activity to see results. One thing to keep in mind is that Viagra can take longer to work when you take it with a high-fat meal. For best results, take Viagra on a near-empty stomach.  

While Viagra can last for four hours, you’ll start to see some declining effects after two hours. 

Let’s compare Viagra to tadalafil (Cialis), which is a longer-lasting ED medication that can work for up to 36 hours. Cialis has a half-life of four to five hours, and you’ll need to take it an hour before sex — unless you’re taking it daily, which many people do. 

With Viagra, you’ll need to anticipate when you’re going to have sex so that you’re taking Viagra at the right time. If you have a pretty good feeling you’ll need an erection in the next hour, it’s a good time to take Viagra.   

Which dose of Viagra may be right for you

A standard dose of Viagra is 50mg, taken about one hour before you want an erection. Doses start at 25mg. 

If you’re not seeing results, your doctor can increase your dose to 100mg. On the flip side, if you’re seeing some side effects, your doctor can decrease your dose to 25mg. 

This is why Viagra isn’t offered over the counter –– you may need your doctor to walk you through some trial-and-error based on how your body reacts to the drug, which can cause some nasty side effects if taken incorrectly. 

Either way, you should only be taking Viagra once per day.

What are the possible side effects of Viagra?

Viagra is considered safe, and serious side effects are rare. 

Approximately 15% of people experience side effects of ED medication. Common side effects are: 

  • 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

Less common side effects of Viagra are:

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

You should stop using Viagra and seek immediate medical attention if you experience any of these symptoms:

  • 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, or hives
  • Chest pain, shortness of breath, dizziness, or nausea during sex

Do other drugs interact with Viagra?

While blood pressure medications like alpha blockers and antihypertensives don’t interact badly with Viagra, people who take both do need to be monitored. Nitrates, on the other hand, absolutely cannot be taken with Viagra under any circumstances.

Antibiotics, antifungals, and HIV protease inhibitor drugs also don’t play nicely with Viagra. All of these drugs are processed in the liver, and they can increase the level of Viagra in your body –– not great for side effects. 

Also good to know: Alcohol and grapefruit juice can increase your chances of experiencing Viagra side effects, too.  

You won’t want to take Viagra with anticonvulsants like phenytoin or carbamazepine, or an antibiotic called rifampin. Those drugs can decrease the effectiveness of Viagra.

Don’t forget: You can improve your erections through lifestyle choices, too.

It’s more than okay to take Viagra for erectile dysfunction, but we wouldn’t want you to overlook other ways to improve your overall sexual health. 

Quick warning: ED may be a sign of a more serious medical condition. Heart disease and diabetes have both been linked to ED, which is why it’s important to see a doctor if you’re having a hard time getting hard. 

But if you’re free and clear of serious medical conditions, here’s where you can tweak your lifestyle to see harder erections over time. 

Reduce your blood pressure through a balanced diet

We’re not here to talk about fad diets, because there’s no one food or set of nutrients that will give you better erections. That being said, a balanced diet full of nutritious fruits, veggies, protein, and healthy fats can contribute to better sexual health in general.

Try to avoid eating too many high fat, processed foods. Keep your sodium at a reasonable level. Eat greens and fish rich in omega-3 fatty acids (like salmon), because they can help lower your blood pressure over time.

Calm down with some practical self-care

When you’re stressed, the last thing your body cares about is producing an erection.

That’s because stress hormones like cortisol activate the sympathetic nervous system, which is your fight-or-flight response. When stress is chronic, your sexual performance can take a major hit.  

Stress reduction isn’t easy when life is throwing a lot your way, but here’s what can help:

  • Meditation
  • Exercise
  • Talking to a friend
  • Seeing a therapist
  • Reducing caffeine intake
  • Journaling
  • Learning how to say no 
  • Spending time with animals

Quit smoking

Nicotine is an erection killer because it can cause your blood vessels to narrow. 

And one study published in Prostate International showed a link between ED and atherosclerosis, which is a buildup of plaque in your arteries caused by smoking.

To quit smoking, odds are you won’t be able to do it on your own. You may need a combination of prescription medication, behavioural therapy, and social support to get it done. For more information, start with this article by Harvard Health

Lower your alcohol consumption

While it may be embarrassing to struggle with your erection when you’ve had a few too many, you’re risking chronic erectile dysfunction when you’re consuming more than three standard units of alcohol (12g of ethanol) on a daily basis. 

A 2007 study in the Indian Journal of Psychiatry found that 72% of men who experience alcohol dependence also deal with sexual dysfunction, most commonly ED, premature ejaculation, and low sexual desire.

If you’re struggling with alcohol addiction, find an Alcoholics Anonymous group near you. According to researchers from Stanford, AA is even more effective than therapy because of its social component. 

Get enough sleep

Sleep deprivation is correlated with low testosterone, which can cause erectile dysfunction. A lot more research is needed in this area, but it’s safe to say your overall sexual health may be affected if you’re sleep deprived. 

If you want to get more sleep, try:

  • Avoiding screen time one hour before bed
  • Avoiding caffeine late in the day 
  • Establishing a relaxing bedtime routine, such as reading and/or meditation
  • Sticking to a sleep routine by getting up and going to sleep at the same time every day, even on weekends
  • Get regular exercise, but avoid it two to three hours before bedtime

The decision to try Viagra is personal, and it may take some time to find the right medication for you. Learn more about which prescription may be right by starting an online assessment with one of our doctors today.

WRITTEN BY
Felix Team
Updated on:
August 20, 2021
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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