Erectile dysfunction, or ED, is an extremely common condition, affecting as many as 30 millions Americans at any time.
Although ED is often thought of as something that affects older men, men of all ages often deal with erectile dysfunction. In fact, large-scale study data shows that as much as 40 percent of all men will deal with some degree of erectile dysfunction by the age of forty — and that number only increases over time.
Numerous medications are available to treat erectile dysfunction, from well-known medications such as sildenafil (the active ingredient in Viagra®) to newer, second-generation ED treatments such as avanafil (Stendra®).
Safety is an important factor to consider before using any type of medication. While all of the Food and Drug Administration-approved ED medications on the market now are safe for healthy individuals, there are a few side effects and drug interactions that you should be aware of before using any type of medication to treat ED.
Below, we’ve explained how these medications work, their common side effects, potential drug interactions and other key safety data that you should be aware of.
We’ve also answered some common questions regarding which ED medication is the safest for you to use, with a focus on factors such as side effects and general safety.
Currently, there are four medications on the market that have been approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for treating erectile dysfunction. They are:
All four of the medications listed above are only available with a prescription. If you have erectile dysfunction and think that one of the medications above may be suitable for you, you can talk to a healthcare professional online and, if appropriate, receive a prescription for an FDA-approved treatment.
All medications, including the four ED drugs listed above, undergo clinical testing to check that they’re safe before they’re approved by the FDA.
Sildenafil, tadalafil, vardenafil and avanafil are all safe for most people to use. However, like all medications, there are certain side effects and drug interactions that you should be aware of if you’re considering using any of these medications to treat ED.
Currently, all of the ED medications approved by the FDA are in a class of medications called PDE5 inhibitors. They work by inhibiting the action of PDE5, or cGMP-specific phosphodiesterase type 5 — an enzyme that regulates the flow of blood to the erectile tissue of your penis.
This dilates the tissue of your penis that’s responsible for producing erections. As more blood is able to flow in, you’ll find it easier to develop and maintain an erection even if you have ED.
All PDE5 inhibitors have the potential to cause certain side effects. Most side effects associated with erectile dysfunction drugs are mild and temporary. Some of the most common are:
Although the precise rate of side effects can vary from drug to drug, these side effects are all pretty common with first-generation ED drugs such as sildenafil (Viagra), tadalafil (Cialis) and vardenafil (Levitra).
We’ve explained these side effects in more detail in our full guides to Viagra, Cialis and Levitra side effects. If you want to learn more about these drugs from the FDA, we also made sure to link to the most recent and up-to-date FDA labels on each one above, as well.
As a PDE5 inhibitor, avanafil (Stendra) can also cause the side effects listed above. However, as a second-generation ED medication, it has a more targeted effect in the body that makes it less likely to cause these side effects.
For example, the most recent FDA label for Viagra notes that 28 percent of men experienced headaches after using the strongest Viagra dosage. In comparison, only 10.5 percent of men who used Stendra at the strongest dosage experienced this side effect.
Erectile dysfunction drugs are safe to use with most other medications. However, some other medications, such as alpha blockers and nitrates used to treat hypertension, can interact with ED medications to produce dangerous side effects.
Interactions can occur with all ED medications, including second-generation ED drugs such as avanafil (Stendra).
Before using any type of ED medication, it’s important that you inform your healthcare provider about other medications you use, including over-the-counter medications and herbal supplements. They may recommend a different type of treatment if there is a significant risk of interaction.
All four of the ED medications listed above are safe for most people to use. However, just like with other medications, all ED medications have the potential to cause certain side effects and drug interactions.
Before using any ED medication, talk to your healthcare provider about your symptoms, health history and any other medications you use. Your healthcare provider will recommend a safe, effective treatment that is best suited to your needs and health.