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How Long Does Viagra® (Sildenafil) Last?

Katelyn Hagerty FNP

Medically reviewed by Katelyn Hagerty, FNP

Written by Our Editorial Team

Last updated 11/28/2022

Sildenafil, which is available under the brand name Viagra® and as a generic drug, is one of the most widely used and effective medications for treating erectile dysfunction (ED).

As a PDE-5 inhibitor, sildenafil works by increasing blood flow to the erectile tissue that’s in your penis. This makes it easier to get and maintain an erection, letting you enjoy sexual intercourse even if you’re affected by ED.

For many men, a single tablet of sildenafil is all it takes to improve blood flow and help produce a normal, easily sustained erection. 

So, how long does Viagra take to work, and how long does it last once it’s in your body? For the most part, brand-name Viagra and generic sildenafil start to work in an hour and produce effects for around four hours per dose. 

However, there are a few factors that may affect the amount of time that’s required for Viagra to work, as well as the total period of time for which it’s active in your body.

We’ve discussed these below and explained what you need to know if you’re prescribed Viagra as an erectile dysfunction treatment. 

How Does Viagra Work?

Before we discuss how long Viagra lasts, let’s quickly go over the basics of how the “little blue pill” works for the treatment of erectile dysfunction. 

Sildenafil, the active ingredient in Viagra, works by relaxing the walls of the blood vessels that transport blood to your penis. This improves the blood supply to the erectile tissue inside your penis, allowing you to more easily get an erection in response to sexual arousal. 

By making it easier to get and maintain an erection, sildenafil lets you engage in sexual activity with more confidence, especially if you’re normally prone to ED.

One thing to keep in mind is that sildenafil has no impact on your sex drive, meaning you won’t feel more interested in sex after you take it.

It also doesn’t cause erections on its own. Instead, it only makes it easier to get and stay hard if you feel sexually stimulated. 

As such, you won’t “feel” Viagra after you take it, or suddenly get an erection to suggest that this medication is working. Instead, the effects are more subtle, and you may simply notice that your erections are firmer, quicker to develop or more reliable than normal. 

How Long Does Viagra Take to Work?

So, how fast does viagra work? Most of the time, Viagra should start working in about 30 to 60 minutes. This is generally enough time for the medication to pass through your intestinal wall, move into your bloodstream and produce a noticeable effect.

Since brand-name Viagra and generic sildenafil contain the same active ingredient, it also takes around 30 to 60 minutes for sildenafil to start working. 

However, the amount of time required for Viagra to start working can vary depending on a range of factors, from the specific response you have to this medication to foods you ate shortly before or after taking it. 

Viagra usually begins working rapidly when it’s taken on an empty stomach, as the medication is able to enter your digestive system faster.

If you take Viagra or generic sildenafil with or shortly after a large, fatty meal, it may take longer to start working. For this reason, it’s generally best to avoid foods such as cheeses, fatty meats and other high-fat meals when using Viagra. 

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How Long Does Sildenafil Last?

Sildenafil usually lasts for approximately four hours, giving you a large time window in which you can have sex with optimal erectile function.

In one study published in the British Journal of Clinical Pharmacology, men with ED who used sildenafil at a dosage of 100mg were able to attain an “adequate” erection four hours later — a finding that’s consistent with sildenafil’s three- to five-hour half-life. 

So, when we ask, “How long does sildenafil last?” it’s worth noting the answer comes with some slight variations. 

Research suggests that while sildenafil can help produce an erection at four hours post-dose, it may not be as firm as the erection you get two hours after taking sildenafil. 

As such, for optimal results, it’s best to time your use of sildenafil so that you’re able to have sex within a few hours after taking this medication. 

How Long Does Viagra Last?

Viagra and generic sildenafil contain exactly the same active ingredient, meaning a Viagra tablet will last for exactly the same amount of time as the equivalent sildenafil tablet.

According to the medication’s FDA label, the Viagra half-life is four hours. Most men affected by erectile dysfunction who use Viagra are able to get and maintain an erection without any issues for approximately four hours after taking this medication. 

This information is supported by the FDA’s clinical trials for Viagra, in which participants with ED reported effectiveness for four hours.

One thing to keep in mind is that you’ll still go into your refractory period after ejaculating even if you use Viagra, meaning you’ll need to take a break if you plan to have sex again. 

Our full list of Viagra FAQs discusses the amount of time Viagra lasts, as well as other common questions about how Viagra and generic sildenafil work, in more detail. 

Can Viagra Produce Permanent Effects?

So, how long does Viagra last after its main effects wear off? Or, put simply, can Viagra continue to affect your body after it stops being effective for erectile dysfunction?

Some medications can cause lasting side effects, including drug interactions, that may continue even once they stop producing any noticeable effects. Viagra isn’t one of these medications — it stops working after four hours and doesn’t have any long-term adverse effects in your body.

As we mentioned above, the half-life of sildenafil is approximately four hours, meaning it takes a total of four hours for the amount of sildenafil in your bloodstream to decrease by 50 percent.

This means that a typical dose of Viagra or generic sildenafil will remain “in your body” for about one day after you take it, albeit in a tiny quantity that has no noticeable effects on your health. 

Eventually, Viagra will no longer be present in your bloodstream or tissue and it will produce no effects within your body. 

Factors That Can Affect How Long Sildenafil Lasts

A variety of factors can affect the amount of time Viagra or generic sildenafil stays active in your body. These include:

  • Your diet. Eating a large meal, particularly a meal that’s high in fat, can slow down your body’s absorption of sildenafil and prevent it from working quickly. This may also extend the length of time for which sildenafil keeps working.

  • Your age. Age can have an impact on your body’s ability to absorb medication. If you’re middle-aged or older, or if you have hepatic and/or renal impairment, it may take longer for Viagra to start working and exit your body.

  • Your alcohol consumption. Consuming a significant amount of alcohol may affect your sexual function and make it more difficult to maintain an erection. However, it isn’t clear if alcohol affects the amount of time sildenafil lasts.

  • Your sildenafil dosage. Although sildenafil’s half-life stays the same regardless of your dosage, taking a larger dose of Viagra or generic sildenafil may cause you to experience slightly longer-lasting effects.

  • Your mental well-being. Several psychological factors could make treatment for erectile dysfunction less effective, including depression, stress or feelings of sexual performance anxiety.

  • Your overall health. Some medical conditions, such as diabetes and multiple sclerosis (MS) can affect your erectile function and prevent medications like sildenafil from being fully effective.

  • Your use of other medications. Certain medications, such as antidepressants, blood pressure drugs, antiandrogens, tranquilizers and others, can make ED symptoms more severe and may affect the amount of time that sildenafil works.

If you’re prescribed Viagra or generic sildenafil and feel worried that it isn’t working for as long as it should, it’s important to inform your healthcare provider. They may suggest adjusting your dosage or making other changes to the way you use your medication. 

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Can You Make Viagra Last Longer?

Because Viagra’s half-life isn’t something you can change, there’s no simple way to make this medication last for longer once it’s in your body.

However, there are several things that you can do to ensure Viagra is as effective as possible after you take it:

  • Take sildenafil or Viagra as prescribed. Make sure to closely follow your healthcare provider’s instructions and take Viagra or generic sildenafil at the prescribed dosage.

  • Avoid high-fat meals. Eating a high-fat meal could affect the amount of time required for Viagra to start working and reduce its effectiveness.

  • Don’t consume alcohol. It’s best not to drink alcohol while using Viagra, as this may have a negative effect on your sexual performance.

  • Take it easy and relax. Try to create a relaxing mood before sex to prevent feelings of stress, anxiety or general worry from affecting your sex life. 

Potential Side Effects of Viagra

Brand-name Viagra and generic sildenafil are safe, effective medications for most men affected by erectile dysfunction. However, like all medications, they can cause adverse side effects.

Most side effects of Viagra are mild and transient, meaning they fade away after the medication wears off. 

Common side effects of Viagra include:

  • Headaches

  • Facial flushing

  • Dyspepsia (indigestion)

  • Abnormal vision (blurred vision and/or changes in color vision)

  • Myalgia (muscle pain)

  • Nasal congestion

  • Back pain

  • Dizziness

  • Nausea

  • Rash

In rare cases, Viagra may cause more serious side effects, such as sudden loss of vision, chest pain, fainting, ringing in your ears, sudden changes in hearing or loss of hearing, or shortness of breath. 

Viagra may also cause a long-lasting, painful erection called priapism. Make sure to seek urgent medical assistance if you develop a prolonged erection that feels painful and/or persists for four hours or longer after taking Viagra.

Viagra and other ED medications may interact with other medications, including medications for chest pain and high blood pressure. Make sure to tell your healthcare provider about all other medications you take before using Viagra or similar PDE5 inhibitor medications to treat ED.

Our complete guide to the side effects of Viagra goes into greater detail about these effects and explains how you can use Viagra and similar medications safely. 

Viagra vs. Other Medications for ED

Although Viagra is the most popular medication for treating ED, it certainly isn’t the only drug in its category. Other common medications for treating ED include Cialis®, Levitra® and Stendra®, all of which have similar positive effects to Viagra.

How Long Does Cialis (Tadalafil) Last?

Cialis, which contains the ingredient tadalafil, provides relief from ED for significantly longer per dose than Viagra. Most of the time, one dose of Cialis will take effect within 60 minutes — but may take effect in as little as 30 minutes — and can provide stronger erections for as long as 36 hours.

Levitra, on the other hand, has a similar half-life to Viagra. Levitra contains vardenafil and can take about 60 minutes to start working. Once it’s absorbed by your body, its effects usually last for approximately four to five hours.

How Long Does Stendra (Avanafil) Last?

Even though Stendra is technically one of the newer kids on the block as far as ED meds go, it comes out swinging with a terminal half-life of five hours — slightly longer than Viagra.

This means you can generally expect a normal dose of Stendra to provide relief from ED for five hours. Stendra is also quick to start working, with some men experiencing improved erections in as little as 15 minutes after taking it. 

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The Bottom Line on How Long Viagra Lasts

How long does Viagra last? Assuming you take it either without food or with a small meal that’s low in fat, you can expect Viagra to start working in around one hour and provide relief from ED for approximately four hours at a time.

If Viagra doesn’t work effectively for you, it’s best to let your healthcare provider know as soon as you can. You may need to adjust your dosage of Viagra or make other changes to the way you use your medication. 

If you’re looking for extended relief from erectile dysfunction, a longer-lasting medication such as tadalafil may be your best bet.

We offer several evidence-based, FDA-approved ED medications online, including Viagra and generic sildenafil. 

To get started, consider taking part in an online consultation for erectile dysfunction to talk to a licensed healthcare provider and learn more about your options. 

11 Sources

Hims & Hers has strict sourcing guidelines to ensure our content is accurate and current. We rely on peer-reviewed studies, academic research institutions, and medical associations. We strive to use primary sources and refrain from using tertiary references.

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This article is for informational purposes only and does not constitute medical advice. The information contained herein is not a substitute for and should never be relied upon for professional medical advice. Always talk to your doctor about the risks and benefits of any treatment. Learn more about our editorial standards here.