Medically reviewed by Kristin Hall, FNP
Written by Our Editorial Team
Last updated 7/24/2019
Up to 40 percent of men experience some form of erectile dysfunction (ED) by the age of 40, making it one of the most common male sexual performance issues.
Luckily, ED is no longer an impossible condition to treat. Today, a wide range of medications are available to treat erectile dysfunction and improve sexual performance in men. Approved by the FDA in 2003, Levitra is one of them.
Levitra is a PDE5 inhibitor, meaning it belongs to the same class of medications as similar drugs such as Viagra and Cialis. Vardenafil (the active ingredient in Levitra) starts working in less than one hour and usually provides relief from ED for about five to six hours.
This means that Levitra lasts for longer than Viagra, but doesn’t provide the multi-day effects of Cialis.
Like other FDA-approved medications used to treat ED, Levitra is safe and effective. However, like other prescription medications, Levitra still has the potential to produce a range of mild and more serious side effects.
Below, we’ve listed the common and uncommon side effects of vardenafil. When available, we’ve also provided study data for each side effect to explain why it happens, how common it is and what you can do to treat it.
Like other erectile dysfunction medications, Levitra has several common side effects. Most of these side effects are mild, temporary and common to all ED medications, meaning you might also experience them if you use Viagra or Cialis.
Minor side effects from Levitra are fairly common. However, the most common side effects of Levitra tend to be mild. In an FDA study involving more than 4,400 men, only 3.4 percent of the men who took part stopped using Levitra due to side effects (compared to 1.1 percent for a placebo).
Headaches are by far the most common side effect of Levitra. In fact, headaches are the most common side effect for all ED medications, including Viagra and Cialis. According to data from the FDA, approximately 15 percent of men who use Levitra experience some form of headache.
Erectile dysfunction medications such as Levitra are vasodilators, meaning they can cause your blood vessels to widen. This increases blood flow throughout your body and makes it easier for your body to supply specific tissue with the blood it needs to properly function.
In the context of ED medication, this makes it easier for your body to supply blood to the erectile tissue of your penis, helping you get and maintain an erection when you’re sexually aroused.
By dilating your blood vessels, medications like Levitra can also place extra pressure on nerves in certain parts of your body. When this pressure affects the nerves in the sides of your head, it can cause you to develop a headache.
Headaches from Levitra typically fade away on their own as the drug exits your system. Since Levitra has a moderate half-life, it’s rare for this side effect to last for more than five hours after you use the medication.
If you get severe headaches from Levitra, it’s best to talk to your doctor. They might suggest a lower dose of the medication, or recommend some form of over-the-counter pain relief to make your headaches less intense and uncomfortable.
Our guide to dealing with headaches from ED medications also lists several techniques you can use to treat headaches from Levitra.
Flushing is the second-most common side effect of Levitra. In trials of Levitra, 11 percent of men who used the medication reported flushing as a side effect, compared to just 1 percent of men who used a non-therapeutic placebo.
Like headaches, flushing is a common side effect of all ED medications. This means that if you experience flushing after using Levitra, it’s possible you might experience the same side effect even if you switch to Viagra or Cialis.
Flushing is caused by the effects of Levitra on your blood vessels. Because Levitra causes your blood vessels to widen, it can temporarily give your cheeks, nose, chin and forehead a flushed, red appearance.
This side effect usually fades away as vardenafil makes its way out of your system. Like headaches, it’s often possible to reduce the severity of facial flushing by switching to a lower dose of Levitra.
Rhinitis, or irritation and inflammation of the mucous membrane inside your nostrils, is another common side effect of Levitra. This can result in symptoms such as a blocked nose, sneezing, upper airway cough syndrome and, in some cases, a runny nose.
In trials of Levitra, 9 percent of men who used the medication experienced symptoms of rhinitis. This is a significantly higher percentage than other ED medications (Cialis, for example, has a 2 to 3 percent rate of causing nasal congestion in studies).
Sinusitis, another form of nasal irritation and congestion, is also reported by about 3 percent of men who use Levitra. Flu-like symptoms, which can involve nasal congestion in combination with other side effects, such as headache, affect approximately 2 percent of Levitra users.
Like the other common side effects of Levitra, nasal congestion typically fades away as Levitra exits your body. As with many other side effects, it might be possible to reduce the severity of nasal congestion by using a lower dose of Levitra.
Dyspepsia, or indigestion, is a common side effect that’s reported by approximately 4 percent of men who use Levitra.
Like Viagra and Cialis, Levitra can cause the muscles of your lower esophageal sphincter (LES) to relax. This increases the risk of your stomach acid traveling up from your stomach into your esophagus, resulting in heartburn.
It’s usually possible to treat heartburn from Levitra using over-the-counter medications and antacids. Other techniques for treating heartburn, such as drinking a glass of water with a small amount of baking soda mixed in, can also help to ease these symptoms.
According to data from the FDA, approximately 2 percent of men who use Levitra experience some nausea symptoms. This is a common side effect of all erectile dysfunction medications, with a similar number of men who use Viagra and Cialis also reporting nausea as a side effect.
Like other side effects of Levitra, nausea tends to be mild and temporary. It you feel nauseous after using Levitra, it’s best to discuss this with your doctor. They might recommend adjusting your dosage of the medication or using another treatment for ED.
A small percentage of men who use Levitra experience dizziness after taking the medication. In trials of the medication, about 2 percent of men given a standard dose of Levitra reported feeling dizzy while the drug was active.
Like nausea and other common side effects, dizziness from Levitra and other ED medications can often be avoided or made serious by adjusting dosage. If you feel dizzy after taking Levitra, it’s important to inform your doctor about this side effect.
All PDE5 inhibitors, including Levitra, Cialis and Viagra, are linked to visual disturbances in a small percentage of users. The most common visual side effect of Levitra is a mild change in color perception after using the medication.
In a 2019 study, researchers found that men who took a 40mg dose of vardenafil temporarily made more errors in a vision test (the Farnsworth–Munsell D100 color vision test) than their peers given a non-therapeutic placebo.
After 24 hours, the two groups showed no difference in color vision. These side effects are usually temporary and only last while the vardenafil in Levitra is active in your body. If you experience persistent visual disturbances from Levitra, you should contact your doctor.
Like Viagra and Cialis, Levitra can cause a temporary drop in your blood pressure levels while it’s active in your body. This decrease in blood pressure is usually mild and does not negatively affect your health if you have an otherwise normal cardiovascular system.
FDA data shows that Levitra typically produces a mean maximum decrease of 7 mmHg systolic and 8 mmHg diastolic blood pressure. This decrease is temporary and of little consequence in healthy, adult men without any cardiovascular issues.
However, if you use medication to treat hypertension or other cardiovascular issues, the effects of Levitra on your blood pressure could be more serious. We’ve covered this, as well as specific drugs to avoid using with Levitra, in more detail below.
Serious side effects from Levitra are rare. However, they can still happen. Below, we’ve listed a range of potential side effects and interactions of Levitra that are more serious, including several that can require medical attention.
Priapism is a prolonged erection that lasts for longer than four hours. This can lead to damage to the erectile tissue of the penis. There have been rare reports of priapism from all medications used to treat erectile dysfunction, including Levitra.
Before going into more detail on priapism, it’s important to reiterate that this side effect is very rare. In 2007, there were only 93 reported cases of priapism from all medications used to treat erectile dysfunction, of which Levitra only accounted for a small number of cases.
If you experience an erection that lasts four hours or longer after using Levitra, seek medical assistance immediately. Priapism can be treated successfully in a hospital, helping you to avoid any lasting damage to the erectile tissue of your penis.
Levitra, as well as other ED medications such as Viagra and Cialis, are linked to cases of optic nerve damage. This is a very rare side effect of all PDE5 inhibitors — due to the limited number of cases, researchers are unsure whether this side effect is directly related to the medication.
If you experience any loss of vision after using Levitra, excluding the transient color vision issue listed above, you should seek medical attention immediately.
This could potentially be a sign of non-arteritic anterior ischemic optic neuropathy (NAION) — a condition in which damage to the optic nerve causes permanent loss of vision to some degree, either in one or both eyes.
NAION is a very rare side effect of PDE5 inhibitors. Of the few cases that have been reported from sildenafil(generic Viagra), a similar ED medication, most involved men who already had a higher risk of experiencing vision issues due to genetic factors.
PDE5 inhibitors such as Levitra are linked to some hearing issues, including hearing loss. In a report from 2010, researchers describe a patient who experienced sudden loss of hearing after using vardenafil to treat erectile dysfunction.
It’s worth noting that this was, to the researchers’ knowledge, only the second case of hearing loss associated with Vardenafil to occur by 2010 (approximately seven years after Levitra was approved by the FDA). This makes hearing loss one of the rarest potential side effects.
This rare side effect is also associated with Viagra and Cialis, although only a tiny number of users are affected. According to the FDA, cases of hearing loss, potentially accompanied by tinnitus and dizziness, have a “temporal association to the intake of PDE5 inhibitors.”
If you notice any loss of hearing in either ear after using Levitra, you should seek immediate medical treatment.
Levitra, as well as other ED medications such as Viagra and Cialis, can interact with certain medications used to treat hypertension and other cardiovascular health conditions.
When used with nitrates, Levitra can trigger a sudden, severe drop in blood pressure that’s potentially fatal. Nitrates that have the potential to interact with Levitra include nitroglycerin, isosorbide dinitrate, isosorbide mononitrate and amyl nitrate.
In addition to nitrates used to treat hypertension, Levitra can interact with the ingredients in some “poppers” used as recreational sex drugs.
If you use nitrate medications, you should not use Levitra. If you have any heart condition or take any medication to treat hypertension, chest pain or other cardiovascular conditions, you need to inform your doctor of this before considering Levitra or any other ED medication.
Overall, Levitra’s side effects are similar to those of other ED medications such as Viagra and Cialis. Used at a normal dose, Levitra is a safe, effective treatment for erectile dysfunction that rarely produces anything more than minor side effects.
Interested in learning more about Levitra? Our guide to the effects of ED medication goes into more detail on what you can expect after using Levitra, Viagra or Cialis to treat ED and improve your sexual performance.
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