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How Does Sildenafil Work to Treat Erectile Dysfunction?

Julian Carter


how does sildenafil work

The discovery of Sildenafil as an Erectile Dysfunction (ED) remedy reformed the outlook on male sexual health.

Marketed as Viagra, it was the first medicine developed to treat the inability to get erections. But how does Sildenafil work to treat ED? 

This article aims to provide an informed guide on Sildenafil’s mechanism, onset, and duration of action. 

How does Sildenafil work

Sildenafil, used to treat Erectile Dysfunction, works by relaxing and dilating the blood vessels in the penis.

It, thus, helps increase blood flow to the penis and produces an erection during sexual stimulation. 

Let us take a closer look at Sildenafil’s mechanism of action by understanding the process of achieving erections.

How does an erection happen

According to Cleveland Clinic, an erection happens when a person is sexually stimulated. The nerve messengers from the brain stimulate the penile tissues, emitting Nitric Oxide (NO).

NO activates the enzyme Guanylate Cyclase, which increases cyclic Guanosine Monophosphate (cGMP) production. 

This cGMP causes the blood vessels in the penis to relax, allowing blood to enter the penile tissues. 

This increased blood flow raises the tissue pressure, leading the penis to dilate and harden, thus causing an erection

How does ED happen

ED occurs due to insufficient cGMP levels, which decreases the penile blood flow necessary to get an erection.

The enzyme Phosphodiesterase-5 (PDE5) causes the breakdown of cGMP. A lack of blood flow to the penis results in difficulty in maintaining a firm erection, causing ED.

Various circumstances can cause Erectile Dysfunction, including age, underlying health disorders, psychological issues, or lifestyle choices. 

What does Sildenafil do to treat ED

Sildenafil belongs to a class of medicines known as PDE5 inhibitors. These medications inhibit the activity of PDE5, which is responsible for the breakdown of cGMP.

By blocking PDE5, Sildenafil causes an increase in cGMP levels. It relaxes and dilates the blood vessels in the penis, facilitating blood flow. 

This raises the pressure in the penile tissues and generates a firm erection during sexual stimulation.

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  • Onset and duration of Sildenafil’s action

    Sildenafil’s onset of action typically occurs between 30-60 minutes, with a maximum duration of 4-6 hours. Let us discuss the timing of Sildenafil’s activity in detail.

    How fast does Sildenafil work

    Taking pill Source: pixelshot
    Taking pill

    Sildenafil typically begins to work within 30 to 60 minutes after consumption. For best results, you may take the medicine an hour before engaging in sexual activity.

    However, food, beverages, and sexual stimulation can alter the onset of Sildenafil’s action.

    A high-fat meal can delay Sildenafil absorption into the bloodstream. It can prolong the time needed for the medication to take effect. 

    Therefore, you should take Sildenafil on an empty stomach or after a light meal. 

    Besides, sexual stimulation is necessary for Sildenafil to function. 

    Without it, the penile tissues cannot emit the NO required to increase blood flow and produce erections. 

    To ensure Sildenafil works on time, you must plan your activities before taking the medication.

    Do not exceed the recommended Sildenafil dosage. Taking more than one dose won’t make the medicine work faster.

    Avoid consuming alcohol before taking Sildenafil as it may increase its blood pressure-lowering effect. You may consume a moderate amount if your doctor permits.
    Read: Sildenafil and Alcohol: Understanding the Risks to learn more.

    How long does Sildenafil work

    The effects of Sildenafil may last for around 4 hours. The medicine has a half-life of about 4 to 6 hours. 

    Users may experience enhanced erectile function during this period. After 4 hours, the body starts to break down Sildenafil and inhibits its activity. 

    The duration of Sildenafil’s effect can depend on the dosage and individual response. 

    You must know that Sildenafil does not give you a continuous erection for four hours.

    It improves your ability to gain and maintain erections when sexually stimulated within this period.

    Recommended Read: Learn about the side effects of Sildenafil. A must-read for safe medication use – Unveiling Sildenafil Side Effects: What You Need to Know

    If Sildenafil gives you a painful and prolonged erection that lasts for over 2 hours, seek immediate medical help. You may be experiencing a condition known as Priapism.

    Key takeaways

    So, how does Sildenafil work? It promotes blood flow to the penis by inhibiting PDE5 and enhances the natural process of achieving erections. 

    Sildenafil is widely prescribed worldwide due to its effectiveness, safety profile, and ease of use. 

    Consult a healthcare expert before using Sildenafil to know how to use it for maximum effect.

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    Frequently Asked Questions

    Is Sildenafil safe to use?

    Sildenafil is generally safe when used according to a doctor’s instructions. Like any medicine, it may induce side effects and interact with other drugs or medical conditions.
    It is crucial to consult a healthcare professional to ensure it is safe and suitable for you.

    Can everyone with ED use Sildenafil?

    Sildenafil is not appropriate for all men with ED. It may be unsafe for people with heart disease, low blood pressure, or liver or kidney disease.
    It is vital to discuss your medical history with a doctor before starting Sildenafil.

    Can Sildenafil treat conditions other than ED?

    While Sildenafil is commonly used to treat ED, it is also approved for Pulmonary Arterial Hypertension (PAH). 
    Sildenafil treats PAH by relaxing and dilating lung blood vessels in patients. It improves symptoms and enhances exercise capacity.

    Can you use Sildenafil without a prescription?

    You should never use Sildenafil without a prescription. Sildenafil is a prescription medicine that should only be taken under medical supervision. 
    Recreational use of the medicine can have adverse side effects. It may be unsafe for people with specific health issues.

    What should I do if Sildenafil does not work for me?

    Consult a healthcare professional if Sildenafil does not work for you. A doctor will check the patient’s circumstances to determine the best course of action. They may change your dosage or prescribe alternative treatment options.
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