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How to Treat Headaches From Viagra, Cialis and Levitra

Katelyn Hagerty FNP

Medically reviewed by Katelyn Hagerty, FNP

Written by Our Editorial Team

Last updated 4/13/2022

Headaches are a common side effect of erectile dysfunction medications such as sildenafil (the active ingredient in Viagra®), tadalafil (Cialis®) and vardenafil (Levitra®), with about 25 percent of men prescribed sildenafil reporting some level of headache after using their medication.

Like many other side effects of Viagra, headaches can become more common if you use a high dose of the medication or if you use Viagra, Cialis or Levitra frequently.

Below, we’ve explained how and why headaches from Viagra, Cialis and Levitra can occur, as well as what you can do to treat and prevent headaches from ED medication if you experience them while using medication for the treatment for erectile dysfunction.

Why Do Viagra Headaches Occur?

Sildenafil, tadalafil and other treatments for ED all belong to a class of medications referred to as PDE5 inhibitors. They work by widening the blood vessels that supply blood to the erectile tissue inside your penis, making it easier for you to get and maintain an erection.

Contrary to popular belief, ED drugs like Viagra don’t make you feel sexually aroused, nor do they have any impact on your sex drive. Instead, they simply improve blood flow and make it easier to get and stay hard when you’re already in the mood for sex.

This means that you’ll still need to feel sexually aroused in order to get an erection, even after using Viagra or similar medication. 

Although ED medications are used to increase blood flow to your penis, they can also increase blood flow in other areas of your body. For example, some PDE5 inhibitors are used to treat a form of high blood pressure in the arteries of your lungs called pulmonary hypertension.

These changes in blood flow may play a role in the development of headaches. However, at the moment, experts still aren’t completely aware of why Viagra and similar drugs trigger headaches in so many men.

It’s worth pointing out that despite being a common side effect, headaches only affect a minority of men who use Viagra and other PDE5 inhibitors to treat ED.

For example, in clinical trials of Viagra, between 16 and 28 percent of men reported developing headaches, with the rate increasing alongside Viagra dosage.Similar trials of Cialis found that 11 to 15 percent of men reported experiencing headaches during treatment. 

Headache pain from Viagra and other ED medications may occur while the medication is active in your body, including shortly after taking it. You may also experience some discomfort after the medication stops working.

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How to Treat Headaches From ED Medication

Dealing with headaches caused by Viagra and other medications for ED can be an unpleasant, stressful experience. Not only can they cause discomfort, but they may also affect your sexual function and enjoyment. 

If you experience headaches several hours after using Viagra or other medication for ED, it may also prevent you from relaxing and sleeping properly.

The good news is that it’s usually possible to either prevent headaches from ED medications, or to limit their severity. Below, we’ve shared some tips and techniques that you can use to prevent headaches from affecting your sexual pleasure and results from ED medication. 

Try a Lower Dose of Your Medication

Clinical trials of Viagra, Cialis and other treatments for ED show that headaches tend to become more common as the prescribed dosage increases. This is also true of other Viagra side effects, such as facial flushing, abnormal vision and back and/or muscle pain.

In one study of Viagra published in the journal Urology in 2000, researchers noted a “significant association between higher doses and the occurrence of side effects.”

In simple terms, if you use a relatively high dose of your ED medication (for example, 100mg of Viagra or 20mg of Cialis), you may have a higher risk of developing headaches than you would if you took your medication at a lower dose.

If you’re prescribed a moderate or high dosage of your medication and develop Viagra or Cialis headaches, consider talking to your healthcare provider about adjusting your dosage. For many men, lower dosages of Viagra still produce benefits with a lower risk of side effects.

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Keep Yourself Hydrated

Dehydration is a common cause of headaches. You may be more likely to become dehydrated during or after sex, as physical activity can cause you to sweat and lose some of the moisture in your body. This may cause a mild headache even without the use of medications like Viagra.

Your risk of headaches might be higher if you consume alcohol before you have sex, as alcohol has a diuretic effect, meaning it can cause you to urinate more often than normal. 

To reduce your risk of experiencing a headache after using ED medication, try to keep yourself hydrated. Drink lots of water or other alcohol and caffeine-free beverages, especially if you live in a region with a hot climate or engage in lots of physical activity that causes sweating.

In addition to keeping yourself properly hydrated, it may help to take your ED medication with a light meal. Try to avoid eating a high-fat meal with Viagra, as this could prevent absorption and stop your medication from working effectively.

If Necessary, Use Over-the-Counter Pain Medications

Most of the time, headaches from Viagra and other ED medications will gradually become less severe over the course of a few hours. However, in certain cases, such as with long-lasting ED drugs, symptoms may persist for longer.

This can be a significant annoyance, especially if it prevents you from being able to do normal daily tasks. 

If you often experience headaches after taking ED medication, try taking over-the-counter pain medication. Pain reliever medications such as Tylenol® (acetaminophen) don’t interact with ED drugs, making them safe to use at the recommended dose for temporary headache relief.

Consider Switching to Another ED Medication

Although headaches are reported with all ED medications, some drugs are more likely to cause headaches and other side effects than others. 

For example, clinical trial data shows that the newer-generation ED medication avanafil (sold as Stendra®) is less likely to cause headaches, flushing and other side effects than older ED drugs such as Viagra and Cialis.

If you tend to get long-lasting headaches from ED medication, switching to a drug with a shorter duration of action (the amount of time it’s active in your body) may reduce the typical amount of time that’s required for your headaches to pass.

For example, Cialis (and its generic equivalent, tadalafil) is known for its long duration of action, meaning it might not be the best choice if you’re prone to headaches or other side effects.

If you think changing medications could help to relieve your headaches, it’s best to talk to your healthcare provider. They may switch your prescription to a different ED medication that’s less likely to cause headaches or other adverse effects.

Use Other Techniques to Deal With Viagra Headaches

When a headache starts to develop, simple techniques can often help to relieve discomfort and make you feel better. Try the following tips the next time you experience a headache after using Viagra or other ED medication:

  • Rest in a quiet, dark room. If your headache persists after sex, try to get some rest in a dark, quiet location. Close the curtains, take it easy and focus on resting until you begin to feel better.

  • Use a cool cloth to relieve headache pain. If your headache doesn’t seem to improve on its own, try applying a cool, damp cloth to your forehead to reduce pain. Close your eyes and try to avoid focusing on the sensations of the headache.

  • Try relaxation techniques to calm your mind. Techniques such as deep breathing or meditation may help with headaches. If you have a technique that makes you feel better, don’t feel hesitant to use it if you develop a headache after using ED medication.

  • For severe headaches, contact your healthcare provider. It’s rare for ED medication to cause a severe migraine headache. If you have a very severe headache that doesn’t get better over time, consider contacting your healthcare provider.

    It’s important to seek medical attention if your headache is accompanied by changes in your speech, movement or balance, if you have a severe headache that comes on very suddenly, or if you feel as if you have the worst headache of your life.

Other ED Medication Side Effects

In addition to headaches, ED medications such as Viagra can cause other side effects, including some that may affect your wellbeing and quality of life. 

Common side effects of Viagra include:

  • Heartburn

  • Facial flushing

  • Nosebleeds

  • Diarrhea

  • Muscle soreness

  • Changes in color perception

  • Sensitivity to bright light

In rare cases, Viagra and other ED medications may cause issues such as blurred vision, loss of vision and feelings of dizziness or lightheadedness. It’s important to inform your healthcare provider if you develop any persistent or severe side effects after using Viagra.

While these side effects may sound alarming, the overwhelming majority of men who take ED medications such as Viagra, Cialis and Stendra either don’t develop side effects, or only have minor side effects. 

Our guide to what to expect from ED medication explains more about potential side effects of ED drugs, interactions and other issues that you should be aware of before using any type of medication to treat erectile dysfunction. 

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The Final Word on Viagra Headaches

Headaches are a known side effect of ED medications, with research showing that they affect between 16 and 28 percent of men who use Viagra.

If you often get a headache after using Viagra, Cialis or their generic equivalents, try talking to your healthcare provider. They may suggest adjusting your dosage or switching to a newer ED medication that’s less likely to cause side effects, such as Stendra.

Concerned about your sexual performance? We offer a large range of ED treatments, including prescription medications available after an online consultation with a healthcare provider. 

9 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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  5. Moreira, S.G., Jr, et al. (2000). Side-effect profile of sildenafil citrate (Viagra) in clinical practice. Urology. 56 (3), 474-6. Retrieved from https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/10962318/
  6. Arca, K.N. & Halker Singh, R.B. (2021). Dehydration and Headache. Nature Public Health Emergency Collection. 25 (8), 56. Retrieved from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC8280611/
  7. STENDRA™ (avanafil) tablets, for oral use. (2012, April). Retrieved from https://www.accessdata.fda.gov/drugsatfda_docs/label/2012/202276s000lbl.pdf
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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.