November 7, 2023

Debunking 5 Myths About Viagra

Don’t believe everything you’ve heard about ‘the little blue pill’

Physician's hand holding a blue pill in the palm of his hand, offering it to a patient.

The little blue pill. Those four words are all that’s required to identify Viagra®, the brand name for a medication used to treat erectile dysfunction (ED).

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The medication, officially known as sildenafil, debuted in 1998. Today, it’s used by millions of people around the world when they want to … well, rise to the occasion during an amorous moment.

Yet myth-based questions continue to follow the little blue pill around. Can Viagra give you a never-ending erection? Is it dangerous? Will it turn you into a Casanova?

Let’s set the record straight with the help of urologist Drogo Montague, MD.

Myth #1: Viagra causes hours-long erections

Odds are you’ve seen a Viagra commercial and heard this warning: Seek immediate medical help for an erection lasting four or more hours.

It’s an attention-grabbing piece of cautionary advice. But the situation that it addresses — a condition known as priapism — is a relatively uncommon side effect of the medication, says Dr. Montague.

A study published in 2020 categorized long-lasting erections from Viagra and other ED medications as a “rare event.” Researchers found 411 cases of drug-induced priapism while reviewing more than two decades worth of data.

But your odds of problematic prolonged erections increase if you combine Viagra with certain penile injection therapies, notes Dr. Montague.

“Combining the treatments has a cumulative effect — penile injection therapy makes your erections hard, and adding Viagra makes them harder and even more long-lasting,” he continues. “So stay on the safe side and don’t pair them.”

Myth #2: Viagra is bad for your heart

Here’s a fun fact for you: Viagra was created to help your heart.

Researchers initially developed Viagra to treat angina, a type of chest pain. Angina occurs when your heart doesn’t get enough oxygen-rich blood and starts working harder to compensate.

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Now, Viagra didn’t exactly shine as a treatment for angina … but the stiffer erections the little blue pill caused certainly stood out as a side benefit.

Which brings us back to the question regarding Viagra and your heart.

The erectile dysfunction medication isn’t harmful to your ticker when taken on its own. That’s an important caveat because Viagra should NOT be taken with heart medications that include nitrates.

The reason? Like nitrates, Viagra helps dilate (or expand) blood vessels constricted by coronary artery disease. Your blood pressure drops when this happens, as less force is needed to pump blood through your system.

The worry if you take both Viagra and nitrates is that your blood pressure could drop too low, a condition known as hypotension. Abnormally low blood pressure increases your risk of a heart attack or stroke.

Bottom line? Talk to your healthcare provider before taking Viagra with other medications.

Myth #3: Viagra damages your eyes

Taking Viagra to enhance your bedroom performance likely won’t make it more difficult for you to see your partner — unless you overdo it.

High doses of Viagra have been connected to temporary vision issues, reports the American Academy of Ophthalmology. But overall, the medication is considered low risk when it comes to eyesight.

There’s a slight chance, though, that the pill may color your world blue for a bit. Chemicals in Viagra can temporarily change how light hits your eyes, giving everything you see a short-lived blue tint. This reaction is more likely if you take a maximum dose of Viagra (100 milligrams).

“This side effect can happen with higher doses, but it’s uncommon,” says Dr. Montague.

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Myth #4: Viagra improves sex drive

Viagra increases blood flow to your penis, which can help you get and maintain an erection for whatever activity you have in mind. But responsibility for the “in mind” part of the process is on you.

The little blue pill isn’t designed to increase libido or sex drive, clarifies Dr. Montague. Basically, think of Viagra as a performance enhancer as opposed to a mood setter.

Myth #5: Viagra is only for older adults

ED is more common with age, but that doesn’t mean it’s not an issue for the younger crowd. Studies show that nearly 40% of men and people assigned male at birth are affected by ED by age 40. It can happen much, much earlier, too.

Talking to your healthcare provider about ED and ED medications also may help you save your penis from injury. The reason? Having sex with an erection that’s barely “hard enough” can bend your penis and tear tissue that may scar while healing.

As scar tissue isn’t elastic like healthy penile tissue, it can force your penis to bend with future erections. That can lead to a condition known as Peyronie’s disease.

Taking Viagra or another ED medication can bring a firmness that prevents the issue.

“If you’re having erectile dysfunction problems, you should feel confident going to your doctor no matter your age,” reassures Dr. Montague. “Many men are embarrassed, but they shouldn’t be. It’s a common issue. Help is available, and it’s worth a try.”

Viagra is approved for use to treat ED after age 18.

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