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how viagra works and sildenafil
March 10, 2022
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What is Viagra?

If you have erectile dysfunction (ED), your doctor may recommend that you take Viagra. It’s a prescription drug that’s used in adult males with ED.

Viagra works by blocking a natural chemical that causes blood to flow out of an erect penis. Viagra is a brand-name prescription drug that’s approved to treat erectile dysfunction (ED). With ED, you’re unable to have or maintain an erection. Viagra is approved for this use in males ages 18 years and older.

Viagra contains the drug sildenafil. It belongs to a class of drugs called phosphodiesterase type 5 (PDE5) inhibitors. (A class of drugs is a group of medications that act in a similar way.) Viagra works by increasing blood flow to your penis, which helps you have and keep an erection. But this drug only works if you’re sexually aroused.

Approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) in 1998, Viagra was the first oral drug approved to treat ED in the United States. Sildenafil is now also available under the brand name Revatio to treat pulmonary arterial hypertension, a rare type of high blood pressure that affects the lungs.

You’ve maybe heard of Viagra, also known as the “little blue pill.” But how far do you know about how it works?

How does Viagra Work?

Erections seem pretty basic, but they’re surprisingly complicated. Getting an erection involves cooperation between your heart, blood vessels, hormones, nerves, and even your mood.
During an erection, chemicals in the body cause tissues in the penis to relax. As a result, blood flows into the penis gets trapped (you’ll notice much more blood in an erect penis than when it’s flaccid).

Eventually, the blood gets released, the erection subsides, and blood flow down there returns to normal.
Viagra works by blocking what’s called PDE5 (phosphodiesterase type 5), an enzyme in the body that breaks down chemicals responsible for erections. When PDE5 is blocked, these chemicals don’t get broken down, and as a result, tissues in the penis stay relaxed and engorged with blood.

What are Viagra’s side effects?

Like most drugs, Viagra may cause mild or serious side effects. The lists below describe some of the more common side effects that Viagra may cause. These lists don’t include all possible side effects.

Keep in mind that the side effects of a drug can depend on:

  • your age
  • other health conditions you have
  • other medications you may be taking

Your doctor or pharmacist can tell you more about the potential side effects of Viagra. They can also suggest ways to help reduce side effects.

Mild side effects

Here’s a shortlist of some of the mild side effects that Viagra can cause. To learn about other mild side effects, talk with your doctor or pharmacist, or read Viagra’s patient information.

Mild side effects of Viagra that have been reported include:

  • headache
  • nasal congestion
  • back or muscle pain
  • nausea
  • dizziness
  • flushing
  • rash
  • changes in vision
  • heartburn

What Is Sildenafil?

Sildenafil oral tablet is available as the brand-name drugs Viagra and Revatio. It’s also available as a generic drug. Generic drugs usually cost less than the brand-name version. In some cases, they may not be available in every strength or form as the brand-name drug.

Sildenafil oral tablet is available as a brand-name drug and as a generic drug. Brand names: Viagra, Revatio.

Sildenafil comes in three forms: an oral tablet, an oral suspension (liquid), and an injection that’s only given by a doctor.

Sildenafil oral tablet is used to treat erectile dysfunction (ED). It’s also used to treat pulmonary arterial hypertension (PAH).

How does Sildenafil Work?

Sildenafil belongs to a class of drugs called phosphodiesterase type 5 (PDE5) inhibitors. A class of drugs is a group of medications that work in a similar way. These drugs are often used to treat similar conditions.

Sildenafil works in different ways, depending on the condition it’s being used to treat.

  • For ED: Sildenafil works by increasing blood flow to the penis. This helps you get or maintain an erection. Sildenafil only works for ED if you’re sexually aroused.
  • For PAH: Sildenafil works by relaxing the muscles and opening up the blood vessels in your lungs. This decreases the blood pressure in your lungs. Sildenafil slows down the progression of your illness. It also makes you more able to exercise.

Sildenafil side effects

Sildenafil oral tablet doesn’t cause drowsiness, but it can cause other side effects, including:

  • nosebleeds
  • headaches
  • upset stomach
  • flushing (reddening and warming of the face)
  • trouble sleeping
  • fever
  • an erection that lasts longer than normal
  • respiratory infection
  • nausea
  • vomiting
  • bronchitis
  • sore throat
  • runny nose

If these effects are mild, they may go away within a few days or a couple of weeks. If they’re more severe or don’t go away, talk with your doctor or pharmacist.

What’s the difference between sildenafil and Viagra?

The main difference between generic sildenafil and Viagra is marketing. The main ingredient in Viagra is sildenafil, meaning that the drugs are essentially the same.

However, Viagra is marketed and prescribed strictly for erectile dysfunction, while generic sildenafil can be prescribed for PAH as well.

Viagra is also known as “the little blue pill” because of its blue color, while generic sildenafil tends to be white color.

Viagra cost

As with all medications, the cost of Viagra can vary.

The actual price you’ll pay depends on your insurance plan, your location, and the pharmacy you use.
Your insurance plan may require you to get prior authorization before approving coverage for Viagra.

This means that your doctor and insurance company will need to communicate about your prescription before the insurance company will cover the drug. The insurance company will review the request and let you and your doctor know if your plan will cover Viagra.

If you’re not sure if you’ll need to get prior authorization for Viagra, contact your insurance company.

Generic Sildenafil

Viagra is available in a generic form called sildenafil. A generic drug is an exact copy of the active drug in a brand-name medication. The generic is considered to be as safe and effective as the original drug. And generics tend to cost less than brand-name drugs.

If your doctor has prescribed Viagra and you’re interested in using sildenafil instead, talk with your doctor. They may have a preference for one version or the other. You’ll also need to check your insurance plan, as it may only cover one or the other.

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