Dear Alice,

Is Viagra okay to use?

Dear Reader,

First off, give yourself a pat — it’s great to do some homework on medications of interest, particularly before deciding to use them. Generally speaking, yes — sildenafil (more commonly known by its brand name, Viagra) is okay to use. However, this comes with the caveat that safe use of the drug is informed by a health care provider or pharmacist and that it’s obtained from a trusted source. Sildenafil may be romanticized as a modern miracle, but it’s recommended that folks approach it with the same precautions as any other prescription drug.

So, what is sildenafil and how does it work? It’s a medication — which typically comes in tablet form and is taken orally — made for folks with a penis who have difficulties getting or keeping an erection. The body naturally responds to sexual stimulus by releasing the chemical nitric oxide, which acts as a smooth muscle relaxant. The drug’s active ingredient, sildenafil citrate, enhances the effects of the chemicals, allowing increased blood flow to the penis, causing an erection. Simply put, sildenafil helps the body do what it does naturally, making it distinct from other drugs prescribed for erection problems. Once taken, sildenafil takes about 30 to 60 minutes to start working.

You might be wondering why someone would take this type of drug. Well, there are many different reasons why someone could have difficulty getting or keeping an erection, including stress, diabetes, alcohol intake or other drug use, disinterest in sex in general, or disinterest in sex with a particular partner. A growing body of research supports the idea that erection difficulties have both physiological and psychological determinants — a limp member doesn't necessarily mean a physical problem. As such, there may be more options than just popping a pill to address erectile difficulties.

Whatever the reason behind achieving an erection or not, getting some proper medical advice is recommended before using sildenafil. Taking this drug may not be a safe for some folks because of their current health condition or medication use. If taken incorrectly or in combination with certain drugs (both legal and illegal), it can be hazardous to a person’s health. Specifically, sildenafil is unsafe to use for people who:

  • Take nitrate drugs that are prescribed for chest pain, such as nitroglycerin, isosorbide mononitrate, and isosorbide dinitrate.
  • Have active coronary heart disease, congestive heart failure, low blood pressure, liver disease, or kidney disease that requires dialysis.
  • Take multiple medications for high blood pressure.

It’s also wise to review the potential side effects and complications, which can include:

  • Sudden, severe loss of vision, which could be permanent in some cases
  • Blurred vision
  • Sudden decrease or loss of hearing
  • Ringing in ears
  • Dizziness or lightheadedness
  • Fainting
  • Chest pain
  • Worsening shortness of breath
  • Erection that is painful or lasts longer than four hours
  • Itching or burning during urination
  • Rash

Like some other prescription drugs, sildenafil has made its way into the illegal drug trade and recreational drug use scene. Getting sildenafil via friends, family, illicit dealing, or off the Internet may be risky. It can be difficult to verify that the medication purchased is indeed sildenafil. It’s also possible that there may be unanticipated complications or interactions if the use of the drug is not taken with guidance from a medical professional. Again, for those experiencing erection difficulties, it’s best to first speak with a health care provider who has knowledge of your medical history and can assess whether sildenafil is the best and safest solution for your particular situation. And, if you’re feeling a bit sheepish talking about it, remember that medical professionals have these types of conversations regularly. Sharing the details of what you’re experiencing will allow them to help you to the best of their ability, so there’s no need to feel embarrassed.

Bottom-line: For those seeking virility via modern pharmaceuticals, obtaining sildenafil safely and being aware of potential side effects and complications are a person’s best bets for erectile-related concerns. Here's hoping this information provided the straight-up facts you were looking for on this medication!

Alice!

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