Medically reviewed by Kristin Hall, FNP
Written by Our Editorial Team
Last updated 5/2/2021
Sildenafil is one of the most popular medications available for treating erectile dysfunction and improving sexual performance.
If you’ve searched online for information about sildenafil, you may have seen people mention a gel-based version of this medication.
Although sildenafil isn’t available as a topical gel, certain versions of sildenafil are available as an oral jelly that you can use before sex.
Like regular sildenafil, sildenafil jelly can improve your sexual function and make it easier to get and maintain an erection during sex.
Below, we’ve explained what sildenafil is, as well as why it isn’t yet available as a topical gel or cream. We’ve also discussed sildenafil jelly -- a popular oral form of sildenafil that can be used to treat erectile dysfunction.
Sildenafil is the active ingredient in the medication Viagra®. It’s a PDE5 inhibitor that works by increasing the rate of blood flow to your penis, making it easier to get and maintain an erection before and during sex.
First approved by the FDA in 1998, sildenafil was the first oral medication available specifically to treat erectile dysfunction.
Right now, there’s no gel-based version of sildenafil that’s available to the public in the United States. Similarly, other medications for ED, such as tadalafil (the active ingredient in Cialis®), vardenafil (Levitra®) and avanafil (Stendra®) are only available as oral medications.
Over the years, some researchers have looked at the effects of topical sildenafil as a treatment for erectile dysfunction, with largely mixed results.
For example, a recent animal study looked at the effects of bilosomes containing sildenafil as a topical treatment for ED. The researchers found that when used topically, sildenafil created an increase in cGMP concentration inside the erectile tissue of the penis.
An older study, which involved men with clinically diagnosed erectile dysfunction, also looked at the effects of a topical gel containing sildenafil on erectile function.
This study compared the effects of topical sildenafil with oral sildenafil to see which was a more effective treatment for ED.
Of the men treated with topical sildenafil, 12.5 percent achieved complete erection after a short period of massage. Another 12.5 percent achieved a moderate erection, while 75 percent didn’t achieve an erection at all.
In comparison, 70 percent of the men who received oral sildenafil achieved a complete erection, with 15 percent achieving a moderate erection. Only 15 percent of the men in this ground didn’t achieve an erection following treatment.
Put simply, the oral sildenafil tablet was significantly more effective than the topical sildenafil gel as a treatment for ED.
However, the researchers still noted that sildenafil gel may be a promising option for treating ED at some point in the future.
Although sildenafil gel isn’t available as a treatment for ED, some drug manufacturers produce a version of sildenafil that’s sold as an oral jelly such as Kamagra.
These products typically come in single-dose packs and are available at several dosages. Some sildenafil jelly products are flavored, which may make them easier to swallow if you prefer a jelly to the typical sildenafil tablet.
Currently, these products have not been approved by the FDA and aren’t available in the United States as treatments for ED.
Sildenafil gel may be confused with AndroGel®, a topical gel that’s prescribed to men who have low testosterone levels.
AndroGel contains testosterone, an important hormone that plays a role in controlling your level of interest in sex. Although the link between testosterone and erections isn’t fully clear, this type of medication may offer benefits if you have a weak sex drive caused by low testosterone.
However, AndroGel is not a treatment for ED and shouldn’t be viewed as a topical alternative to sildenafil.
Although erectile dysfunction can be a frustrating issue to deal with, it’s almost always treatable with the right approach.
Several medications are currently available to treat erectile dysfunction, including oral sildenafil tablets that you can use shortly before sex. If you’re one of the tens of millions of men affected by ED, you may benefit from one of the following medications:
Oral sildenafil. Available as Viagra and as a generic medication, sildenafil in tablet form typically starts working in less than one hour and provides relief from erectile dysfunction for as long as four hours per dose.
Tadalafil. The active ingredient in Cialis, tadalafil is also available as a generic. It’s by far the longest lasting treatment for ED, with a single tablet able to provide relief for up to 36 hours at a time.
Vardenafil. The active ingredient in Levitra, vardenafil comes in tablet form and lasts for a similar amount of time to sildenafil.
Avanafil. Available under the brand name Stendra, avanafil is a new ED medication that works quickly, isn’t affected by food and has a reduced risk of certain side effects.
We offer a range of FDA-approved ED medications online, including several of the medications listed above, following a consultation with a licensed healthcare provider.
In addition to using medication, making small but meaningful changes to your day-to-day habits and lifestyle can have a positive impact on your sexual health and erections.
For example, research shows that maintaining a healthy body weight, following a balanced diet and avoiding unhealthy habits such as smoking may help to improve your erections.
We’ve listed actionable changes that you can make to your habits and lifestyle for better sexual health in our guide to naturally protecting your erection.
Right now, sildenafil is only available in tablet form in the United States. Although research has looked at its effects in gel form, the results have been mixed and no drug company has pushed for a gel-based version of sildenafil to undergo the FDA approval process.
Our guide to the most common erectile dysfunction treatments and drugs goes into more detail about the options that are currently available for treating ED.