What if Viagra Doesn’t Work?

Used at a normal dose on an empty stomach, Viagra (sildenafil) is usually very effective as a treatment for erectile dysfunction.

However, Viagra and other ED medications don’t always work 100 percent effectively. In fact, some men who take Viagra still experience erectile dysfunction and other sexual performance issues even after using the medication.

Most of the time, these problems are fixable. Below, we’ve explained why Viagra and other ED drugs sometimes fail to work as intended, as well as what you can do if you still have difficulties getting and maintaining an erection after using Viagra.

Why Viagra Doesn’t Always Work

Viagra works by increasing blood flow to the erectile tissue in your penis. Like the other organs in your body, your penis needs a constant, steady supply of oxygenated blood in order to work as intended.

When you’re aroused, your body increases the flow of blood into the soft tissue of your penis, causing an erection. Sildenafil, the active ingredient in Viagra, works by blocking the enzyme that regulates blood flow to the penis, helping to increase blood flow for a stronger erection.

Most of the time, Viagra works very well for this purpose. However, research shows that about 30 percent of men who use Viagra and other ED drugs don’t experience the full benefits.

There are several reasons Viagra and other ED drugs might not work properly as treatments for erectile dysfunction. If you use Viagra but don’t find it effective, it could be because:

You’re Not Using Viagra Correctly

Viagra needs to be taken correctly in order to properly treat erectile dysfunction. To get the best results from Viagra, it’s recommended to:

  • Take it on an empty stomach. Eating a large meal, especially a meal that’s high in fat, can delay the absorption of Viagra and make it less effective. If Viagra doesn’t seem to work for you, try taking it two to three hours after your last meal.

  • Wait for Viagra to kick in. Viagra works quickly, but its effects aren’t instant. It’s best to take Viagra at least one hour before you plan to have sex, as this gives your body time to fully absorb the medication.
  • Don’t take Viagra too early. Sildenafil, the active ingredient in Viagra, lasts for three to four hours before it starts to become less effective. If you need a longer-lasting drug for preventing ED, consider talking to your doctor about tadalafil (generic Cialis).

  • Avoid drinking alcohol. Alcohol reduces blood flow within your entire body, increasing your risk of experiencing erectile dysfunction. Make sure you avoid alcohol when you’re using Viagra, as even a drink of two could significantly reduce its effectiveness.

You’re Using a Low Dose of Viagra

Viagra and generic sildenafil come in several doses, with the total sildenafil content of each pill ranging from 20mg to a maximum dose of 100mg.

If you’re using a lower dose of Viagra and find it isn’t fully effective at treating ED (or, it doesn’t seem to provide any improvement at all), consider talking to your doctor about moving up to a higher dose of the medication.

Studies of sildenafil, such as this study from 2013, show that a 100mg dose is more effective at treating ED in most men than a 50mg dose. This means that you might be able to improve your erections by increasing your dose of the medication.

You’re Giving up on Viagra Too Early

It’s quite common for Viagra not to work the first time you take it. Many people who use Viagra are nervous about the drug’s effects and anxious that it might not work as intended, increasing the risk of experiencing sexual performance anxiety.

Before you give up on Viagra, try using it at least a few times. If it doesn’t work, consider talking to your doctor about switching to a higher dose. Often, Viagra will become more effective after a few tries as you become more comfortable with the medication and confident in its effects.

The Cause of Your ED is Psychological, Not Physical

Erectile dysfunction can be caused by physical factors (such as poor blood circulation), or as a result of a psychological issue. A common cause of erectile dysfunction is sexual performance anxiety — a form of anxiety that often results in feelings of nervousness during sex.

Although Viagra is often effective as a treatment for erectile dysfunction caused by performance anxiety, it doesn’t always work. Instead, you might need to talk to your doctor about treatments such as guided imagery, counseling and sex therapy.

Our guide to sexual performance anxiety and erectile dysfunction goes into more detail on how performance anxiety can affect your erections, as well as treatments beyond Viagra and other ED medications.

Your ED is Caused by an Underlying Health Condition

Viagra is usually effective at treating erectile dysfunction. However, if your erectile dysfunction is caused by an underlying health condition that affects your blood flow or interest in sex, there’s a chance that Viagra and other ED medications might not be effective.

Common physical causes of erectile dysfunction include heart disease, diabetes, nerve damage and high blood pressure. Hormonal issues, such as low testosterone, can also affect your level of sexual desire, preventing you from getting an erection even with Viagra.

If you believe your ED might be caused by an underlying physical health condition, it’s important to talk to your doctor. This type of erectile dysfunction can often be successfully treated without using Viagra by treating the underlying condition.

Porn is Affecting Your Sexual Performance

Believe it or not, watching too much porn could have a serious negative effect on your ability to get an erection.

Studies show that erectile dysfunction is increasingly affecting younger men, with a report from the Cleveland Clinic stating that approximately 40 percent of men under the age of 40 are affected by some level of ED.

The reason? Porn consumption, which can contribute to dissociation with real-life sexuality and porn-induced erectile dysfunction. Our guide to porn-induced ED goes into this in greater detail, as well as what you can do to limit the negative effects of porn on your sex life.

Viagra Isn’t the Right ED Treatment for You

Finally, Viagra might just not be a good match for your sexual needs and general health. There are numerous erectile dysfunction medications on the market, meaning Viagra isn’t the only option available.

If Viagra isn’t effective for you because its doesn’t last long enough, a longer-lasting medication, such as Cialis, could be a better choice. Everyone is different, meaning that there’s no “best’ ED medication for every person’s needs.

It’s also possible that your ED could be better treated through lifestyle changes, such as dietary modification or options such as ED exercises.

Learn More About Treating Erectile Dysfunction

Tired of dealing with erectile dysfunction? Whether you find it difficult to get an erection at all or just struggle to maintain an erection during sex, it’s important to know that real, science-backed  treatment options are available.

Our guide to the most effective ED treatment options goes into more detail on how you can treat erectile dysfunction, covering everything from FDA-approved medications like Viagra and Cialis to surgical treatments, constriction devices and a wide range of non-medical treatments.

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.