Sildenafil is the generic version of link text (Viagra is the brand name); both are medications taken for erectile dysfunction. Sildenafil contains the same active ingredient as Viagra (sildenafil citrate), and should be equally effective (shown to be 74% effective in men with ED). As a generic version, sildenafil is usually cheaper than Viagra.

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What is Sildenafil Used For?

Sildenafil is used to treat erectile dysfunction. Erectile dysfunction is a condition in which you cannot get an erection sufficient for sexual activity. Sildenafil does not cure erectile dysfunction; however, it does make it easier to get and maintain an erection when you want to have sex, or when you are sexually stimulated.

How Does Sildenafil Work?

Sildenafil is a type of medication known as a PDE-5 inhibitor. Other ED medication options, such as Levitra, Cialis and Spedra also fall into this category.

Erectile dysfunction is usually caused by a problem affecting blood flow to the penis. The sildenafil mechanism of action involves relaxing and widening the blood vessels that supply the penis. This should give you sufficient blood flow to achieve and maintain an erection.

All your body’s arteries can respond in the same way to sildenafil, which can cause a drop in blood pressure. For this reason, sildenafil is sometimes used to treat pulmonary (arterial) hypertension, as blood vessels in the lungs relax and blood pressure decreases. However, this widening of arteries outside of the penis can also cause some negative side effects, such as headaches and skin flushing.

Can Everyone Take Sildenafil?

Although Sildenafil is safe to take for most men over the age of 18, there are some groups for whom it is advised against. It cannot be taken with nitrates, a medication taken for angina (chest pain), as combining the two can cause an unsafe drop in blood pressure. It is also not to be used by those who have previously suffered a stroke, heart attack or any other heart problem or heart disease, or those with high/low blood pressure.

If you have a serious eye problem, or certain blood diseases (sickle cell anemia, leukemia or multiple myeloma) then you should discuss using sildenafil with your doctor or pharmacist, as you are at an increased risk of complications. Finally, having a severe liver or kidney disease can slow down the body’s removal of sildenafil, so a lower dose should be used (i.e. 25 mg rather than the standard 50 mg).

What is the Shelf Life of Sildenafil?

Sildenafil generally lasts for around 2 years post-manufacture, but can expire sooner or later depending on a few factors. To maximise its shelf life, you should store sildenafil in its original container at room temperature, in a dry area away from direct sunlight.

Past its expiration date, sildenafil may lose efficacy as the chemical composition of its active ingredient (sildenafil citrate) may change over time, becoming less potent and potentially causing more side effects. If not stored correctly, it may also develop bacterial growth.

Sildenafil Side Effects

As with any drug, there is a risk of side effects when using this medication. The most common side effects of sildenafil include:

        • Headaches
        • Dizziness
        • Nausea
        • Flushing (reddening) of your face or body
        • Indigestion
        • Nasal congestion
        • Blurred vision

These side effects affect up to 10% of people taking sildenafil.

In rare cases, people do experience severe side effects of sildenafil. You should stop taking sildenafil and call your doctor if you experience any of the following symptoms as these may require immediate medical attention;

        • An allergic reaction called anaphylaxis. This may present with trouble breathing and swelling of the face, lips or throat.
        • A prolonged erection lasting for more than four hours. This is called priapism and can cause significant damage to the penis if not treated quickly.
        • Severe skin reactions that cause blistering, swelling and significant peeling of the skin.
        • Sudden visual changes such as a loss of vision or a sudden decrease in vision.
        • Chest pain. Sildenafil can cause a heart attack, so it is important to have further investigations as soon as possible. If you experience chest pain on sildenafil, you should call emergency services as soon as possible.

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Summary

        • Sildenafil is a popular drug used to treat erectile dysfunction.
        • Common sildenafil side effects include headaches, nausea and indigestion.
        • If you have any heart/eye problems, discuss the use of sildenafil with your doctor, as you may experience serious side effects.
        • Serious side effects are rare, but you should seek medical attention if you experience a severe allergic reaction, a severe skin reaction, chest pain, a sudden reduction in vision or an erection lasting more than four hours.

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