We all know Viagra. It’s the go-to option for lots of men with erectile dysfunction. As great as it is, it isn’t the ideal treatment for every man in the world. Viagra side effects can and do happen, but fortunately the number of men that experience them is small.
If you’re thinking of taking Viagra or sildenafil citrate, but want to know more about side effects, you’re in the right place. Being aware of the Viagra risks means that you’ll be more in-the-know should they happen.
Viagra has a half life of up to four hours. This is the time it takes for a drug’s active ingredient to be metabolised and reduced by half in the body. This means that you shouldn’t get any long term side effects from Viagra. When the drug is no longer in your system, any side effects you do get should calm down too (as long as you’ve stuck to the instructions).
If you’re an older man, some side effects are more likely when taking Viagra. In most cases you’ll start on a lower dose to see how you react to the medication. This is usually the safer option, as it lowers the risk of side effects.
There’s a (fairly long) list of side effects with the Viagra pill, and this can look overwhelming at first. Viagra is generally considered to be a low risk medicine, but it’s good to know what the side effects are so you can do something about them if you need to.
So, if you’re wondering what are the side effects of sildenafil, then we’ll get right to it.
Viagra contains the active ingredient sildenafil citrate, which is a PDE5 inhibitor. This group of medications has been linked to side effects that can affect blood pressure.
A slight rise or fall in blood pressure is not usually something to worry about, as long as your blood pressure returns to normal after the drug has worn off (normally after four hours).
Some men with ED may already be taking medicine to lower their blood pressure. If you are, it’s important to tell the prescriber, because these medications can interact with sildenafil.
If you already have low blood pressure, it’s likely sildenafil won’t be safe for you.
Common side effects may affect up to 1 in 10 people and include:
When you take Viagra or Sildenafil, getting a headache is a very common side effect, which means it affects more than one in 10 men. Viagra and Sildenafil aren’t alone in this – it’s reported a lot with other ED drugs too.
For a lot of men, a headache isn’t much of a problem, and you may only get one during the first couple of uses. So you can keep taking the medication if you feel the headaches aren’t too bad. A good way to prevent a ‘Viagra headache’ is to drink plenty of water and try to avoid drinking too much alcohol.
If you get a particular bad headache and feel as though the medication is causing you discomfort, it’s better to ask your prescriber about changing the dose (or your treatment) to see if that helps.
Uncommon side effects may affect up to 1 in 100 people. These include:
Rare side effects may affect up to 1 in 1,000 people, and include:
Let’s take a look at some other serious side effects:
The good news is that in most cases, the side effects that can occur when you take Viagra or Sildenafil will ease off once the medication is out of your system. But some of the more serious (and rare) sildenafil side effects can have longer term implications.
Just to give an example – priapism can permanently damage cells in the penis if it isn’t seen by a medical professional swiftly. So if you find yourself with an erection that lasts for longer than four hours, get yourself to hospital urgently.
Men who have genetic eye conditions like retinitis pigmentosa should also avoid Viagra, as it can permanently worsen their visual problems.
It’s a good idea to let your prescriber know if you experience any side effects when taking a medication. This means that your experience of Viagra symptoms can be recorded and reported to the yellow card scheme.
Your doctor can talk through the symptoms you’re experiencing and check whether you’re comfortable to continue with your prescription or whether any changes should be made.
In some cases, your dosage of Viagra can be lowered to try and reduce side effects. (Sometimes it’s just a case of striking the right balance.)
If you develop chest pain, heartbeat changes, visual problems or a prolonged erection – go to hospital right away. Don’t take any more Viagra and avoid doing anything phsyically exertive (which includes having sex).
There are also some steps you can take to keep your risk of Viagra side effects as low as possible. Make sure you’re open and honest about your medical history when you talk to a prescriber, especially in relation to health conditions and any medication you take, or have taken.
We know it’s on the hefty side, but read the patient information leaflet. Familiarising yourself with the instructions, side effects and what to do if taking Viagra doesn’t go exactly to plan can be helpful.
If you get side effects while taking Viagra or Sildenafil, make sure you let your doctor know. They may prefer to keep a closer eye on your use or lower the dose. Doing this means the overall amount of active ingredient you take is reduced, but so too is the risk of side effects. (Most of the time, it should still work just as well.)
 Sildenafil (Viagra) and the heart. Hassan Chamsi-Pasha. (2001) https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3437061/
 The effects of sildenafil on human sperm function in healthy volunteers. Purvis et al. (2002) https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC1874253/