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Levitra vs. Sildenafil: What Are the Differences?

Jill Johnson

Medically reviewed by Jill Johnson, DNP, APRN, FNP-BC

Written by Our Editorial Team

Last updated 5/19/2021

If you're among the 30 million men affected by erectile dysfunction in the United States, then you're probably aware that this condition is highly treatable. 

With several different FDA-approved remedies available, there’s more than a fair share of trusted treatment options to choose from.

One of the best and pioneering options is Sildenafil, the generic version of Viagra. This medication is a trusted household name, and has provided decades of relief for erectile dysfunction.

Almost as well known is Levitra, which is a medication that was approved by the FDA in 2003, five years later than Viagra. 

Despite its latter approval however, this remedy which goes by the generic name vardenafil—is also a trusted option for managing ED.

Both of these choices are well known for their benefits in managing erectile dysfunction, but which medication will serve you better?

When it comes to Levitra vs. sildenafil, it’s helpful to understand how they work to treat erectile dysfunction as well as how the medications operate.

How Do Levitra and Sildenafil Work?

To manage and treat erectile dysfunction, both Levitra and sildenafil operate the same way: as PDE-5 inhibitors.

This means that they are able to prevent the actions of PDE-5: an enzyme found in the smooth muscles of the penis, which has the damaging effect of destroying cGMP—an enzyme necessary for the relaxation of the smooth muscles of the penis. 

When there’s an absence of cGMP, blood flow to the penis can get obstructed, which then leads to erectile difficulties.

By inhibiting the actions of PDE-5, Levitra and sildenafil are able to allow cGMP to accumulate in the smooth muscles. This encourages the dilation of the penile blood vessels, causing longer erections. 

To enjoy these benefits from Levitra, you’ll probably be put on a starting dose of 10 mg. Mild cases of erectile dysfunction may be managed by using a 5 mg dose. 

Doses up to 20 mg may be necessary if the starting 10 mg dose fails to achieve desired results.

ED with Viagra treatment usually starts at 50 mg, and may be increased to 100 mg for more severe cases of erectile dysfunction. 

The lowest dose of Viagra is available in a 25 mg tablet, while the smallest dose of its generic counterpart sildenafil (generic Viagra) also comes in a 20 mg version.

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Levitra vs. Sildenafil: Similarities

Understanding the similarities between Levitra and sildenafil can offer more information about how the medications work to treat erectile dysfunction. 

Levitra and sildenafil have racked up quite the reputation for treating ED and improving sexual satisfaction.

This track record isn’t merely anecdotal; it’s been confirmed by repeated research.

  • In a study of ED patients between the ages of 30 and 72, 97% of the participants reported a dissatisfaction in the quality of their sex lives. After just four weeks of consistent treatment with sildenafil, 98.4% of the subjects reported an improvement in erectile function.

  • Sildenafil is also safe and effective for long-term use. In a four-year study that assessed safety, each year of research showed participants reported at least a 94% satisfaction rate with sildenafil against ED.

  • In two randomized studies, men with ED were given between 5 to 20mg of Levitra over the course of 12 or 26 weeks. Levitra was found to be safe and well-tolerated throughout both research durations. Levitra also increased sexual satisfaction and led to a significant increase in erectile function when compared to what participants experienced at the start of the studies.

  • In a review that examined the effects of all Levitra doses for managing ED, researchers conducted 10 trials involving 6809 men. The results showed that Levitra produced a significant success rate in penetration and erection maintenance during intercourse.

Duration of Effects

Levitra and sildenafil are used as needed, which simply means they are to be taken whenever sex is imminent, as opposed to other drugs like Cialis, which can be taken daily in certain dosages. 

Both medications are recommended to be taken about one hour before you intend to have sex, and require sexual arousal to work.  

They start to produce effects after about 30 minutes, and can require about an hour each to produce the best results.

Levitra and sildenafil also have similar half-lives: While Levitra will lose half of its active ingredients within four to five hours, sildenafil may take between three to five hours for the same to occur. 

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Potential Interactions with Food

As stated in their respective packages, Levitra and sildenafil may be taken with or without food. 

Here’s one study that examined the effects of food on sildenafil and confirmed this. 

Study participants with ED were divided into groups and given the medication one hour before a meal, during a meal, and about 30-60 minutes before sex. 

Some subjects were given placebos to rule out discrepancies.

At the end of the study, food was found to have little impact on the effects of sildenafil for treating erectile dysfunction. 

It is important to note however that high-fat meals may affect the time it takes for Levitra and sildenafil to reach full concentration in the body.

Levitra vs. Sildenafil: Differences

Levitra and sildenafil share more in common than they have in differences, as they work in similar ways. 

The most notable distinction between these two medications would be their available concentrations. 

Because Levitra is more potent, it requires a lower dose to impact penile functioning, as seen in its dosage requirements. 

Sildenafil is needed in larger amounts to manage and treat erectile dysfunction.

Another notable distinction is that sildenafil is also approved as a treatment method for pulmonary hypertension (a condition caused by high blood pressure in the lungs), whereas Levitra is exclusively marketed as a treatment for erectile dysfunction. 

Levitra vs. Sildenafil: Side Effects

As both medications operate as PDE-5 inhibitors to treat erectile dysfunction, their use may produce certain adverse effects.

While Levitra and sildenafil are proven to be safe and well tolerated, they may cause:

  • Headaches

  • Flushing

  • Nasal congestion

  • Dyspepsia (indigestion) 

  • Swelling in the throat and nasal passages

In rare cases, PDE-5 inhibitors have been known to cause priapism, prolonged erections that last longer than 4 hours.

Both medications have been known to cause vision difficulties in rare cases usually at higher doses.

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Levitra vs Sildenafil: Which One Is Right For You?

In the battle of Levitra Vs Sildenafil, it's kind of hard to pick a side. Both medications are effective treatment methods when it comes to managing erectile dysfunction.

They have similar working times within the body, and exit the body around the same time frame. 

You may have dinner before/after taking Levitra or Sildenafil, although it's probably best to avoid eating after using each drug to prevent delays in effectiveness. 

They even share similar side effects. Their biochemical potency may just be the most notable distinguishing feature that they share.

Ultimately, both medications will help with getting your erectile dysfunction under control. 

Consulting with a healthcare professional before making your decision is always a great idea before choosing an ED medication for your needs.

20 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.