What is erectile dysfunction?
Erectile dysfunction is defined as regular difficulties getting or maintaining enough of an erection for satisfying sexual intercourse. The key word here is “regular.” It’s normal for men to have problems getting hard occasionally, but when successful erections become the exception rather than the rule, or when they flat out don’t happen anymore, that’s ED — and that can be a sign there’s something going on.
ED is really bothersome, but it usually isn’t serious. In about 20% of cases though, ED can be a warning sign that you might have an undiagnosed health condition such as heart disease, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, diabetes, or depression. Or maybe there’s another cause such as being overweight, smoking, drinking too much alcohol, certain medications, stress, relationship difficulties, or hormonal problems. Your doctor will run some simple tests to see if whatever is causing your ED is reversible. If so, treating those causes may well improve your ED without the need for ED medications. But even if they aren’t easily reversible, medications for ED are safe, available, and effective in 70% of cases.
What are Viagra, Cialis, and Levitra?
Sildenafil (Viagra), tadalafil (Cialis), and vardenafil (Levitra) belong to a class of drugs known as PDE5 inhibitors. To understand how they work, we’ll need a quick 101 on erections. For an erection to happen, a chemical called nitric oxide (NO) sends a message to the tissues of the penis (in technical terms, the corpus cavernosum), which relax and fill with blood. The erection is ended by another messenger, PDE5 (phosphodiesterase-5).
PDE5 inhibitors slow the erection “off switch,” helping the erection last long enough for satisfying sex. (These medications do not help with turning erections “on.”)
Viagra, Levitra, and Cialis have all been proven to be safe and effective in the treatment of erectile dysfunction. The main differences between them are:
- How they’re taken
- How long they last
- Side effects
For occasional use, most people start with sildenafil. For regular use, tadalafil can be a better fit. Some people prefer to alternate between medications, depending on their lifestyle and relationship status.
|How to take it: Viagra shouldn’t be taken with food. Ideally, you should wait 1 to 2 hours after eating before taking it. If you really can’t wait, then try to stick to a light, low-fat meal. Fatty meals and alcohol can stop Viagra from working.|
|How fast it works: It can start to take effect in as little as 11 minutes, but usually, you’ll have to wait 1 hour before it reaches maximum effect. Then it keeps working for 3 to 5 hours.|
|Typical dose: The typical starting dose is 50 mg. If you’re getting side effects, it can be cut down to 25 mg. If it’s not working fully, it can be increased to 100 mg.|
|How to take it: Cialis is unaffected by food. It can be taken only when you need it, or regularly, every day.|
|How fast it works: It can start working in as quickly as 14 minutes, but you’ll have to wait 2 hours for it to reach the point when it’s most effective. Cialis stays in your body for about 17 hours, helping you with erections at any point in that time window.|
|Typical dose: The typical starting dose of Cialis for occasional use is 10 mg. It can be dropped to 5 mg or upped to 20 mg depending on how you respond. The daily dose for regular use is 2.5 mg.|
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