We`ve all heard of Viagra, the little blue pill that restores men`s superpowers in the bedroom, the butt of countless jokes, and the cause of many a sheepish blush. But the story of how this drug came to be in the first place may be less well known. And quite a story it is. But before we get to that, let`s start at the beginning.

What is Erectile Dysfunction (ED)?

Erectile dysfunction, otherwise known as ED or impotence, is a condition where a man is unable to get or keep an erection long enough to have sex. This happens to many men on occasion and is usually caused by stress, anxiety, or drinking too much alcohol. However, if it happens often it can be a sign of underlying health issues and may need treatment. Common causes of erectile dysfunction include:

  • Aging. Erectile dysfunction becomes more common as we age
  • Diabetes
  • Cardiovascular diseases such as high blood pressure, high cholesterol, and hardening of the arteries.
  • Kidney disease
  • Neurological diseases like stroke, multiple sclerosis, Alzheimer’s disease, Parkinson’s disease
  • Spinal cord injury
  • Anxiety, stress, and depression
  • Injury to the penis
  • Certain medicines
  • Surgery such as bladder, prostate, or colon cancer surgery
  • Peyronie’s disease (scar tissue in the penis)
  • Smoking
  • Drug or alcohol abuse

What is Erectile Dysfunction (ED)?

What is Viagra (sildenafil)?

Sildenafil is the generic name for the drug Viagra. It is licensed for use in the treatment of erectile dysfunction and pulmonary hypertension (high blood pressure in the lungs) where it is sold under the brand name Revatio.

Viagra Bottle

History of Viagra

In the early 1990s, human clinical trials began on a new cardiovascular drug, called sildenafil. Sildenafil was intended to treat hypertension (high blood pressure) and angina pectoris (narrowing of the arteries that supply blood to the heart) by opening the blood vessels and increasing the flow of blood to the heart.

During the trials, a nurse reported that the men involved in the trial were lying on their stomachs in embarrassment due to an interesting and surprising side effect. They were having erections. Sildenafil was increasing blood flow as expected but to the penis instead of the heart. In 1998 Viagra was approved for medical use in the treatment of erectile dysfunction.

How Viagra Works

During normal sexual arousal, the brain sends a message to the penis, triggering the release of a chemical called cyclic GMP. Cyclic GMP relaxes and widens blood vessels in the penis and relaxes the muscles around erectile tissue in the penis, increasing blood flow and causing the penis to become hard (erect). Normally the erection goes away when an enzyme, phosphodiesterase type 5 (PDE5) is released.

Viagra works by blocking the action of PDE5, making it easier to get and keep an erection.

Viagra does not increase your sex drive or make you feel more aroused.

 How to take Viagra

Viagra in the bedroom

Viagra is normally taken 30 minutes to 1 hour before sexual activity but can be taken up to 4 hours before. Swallow one tablet whole with water. You should not take Viagra with alcohol or grapefruit juice as this can cause side effects. You should not take more than one Viagra pill per day.

Medications that may cause ED

Erectile dysfunction is a common side effect of many medications including:

  • some blood pressure medications
  • some anti-depressants and other psychiatric medications
  • some types of antihistamine (anti-allergy medications)
  • some medications for acid reflux (excess stomach acid)
  • opioids (strong painkillers)
  • some medications used to treat Parkinson’s disease
  • chemotherapy
  • alcohol and other recreational drugs

The dangers of counterfeit Viagra

Viagra is a prescription-only medication that needs to be prescribed by a doctor. Before prescribing Viagra, your doctor will ask you questions about your medical history, any medical conditions, and any allergies you have, as well as what other medications you are taking. This is important to ensure Viagra is safe for you to take. A doctor will also try to establish the cause of your erectile dysfunction and may pick up on conditions like diabetes or high blood pressure that need treatment.

Viagra, however, is one of the most counterfeited drugs in the world and in recent years the availability of fake Viagra has skyrocketed, especially online. Viagra manufacturer Pfizer has identified counterfeit Viagra in 111 countries around the world and it is estimated that 80% of online Viagra is fake.

The danger of taking counterfeit medications is that they are completely unregulated and therefore could contain virtually anything, including toxins and ingredients dangerous to health. Tests on counterfeit Viagra tablets have found them to contain detergent, talcum powder, printer ink, and road paint as well as other potentially dangerous medications. Another problem with unregulated medications is that they may be produced in unhygienic conditions and the amount of active ingredient (Sildenafil) may vary widely from pill to pill. Some may contain virtually no active ingredient while others have far too much resulting in possible overdose. Taking counterfeit Viagra can result in serious side effects like problems with your vision, blood pressure, and heart.

Who should not take Viagra
Viagra can be dangerous for people with certain medical conditions. Viagra is not recommended for people who:

  • have had a previous allergic reaction to sildenafil
  • have a serious heart or liver condition
  • have had a stroke or heart attack
  • have low blood pressure
  • have an inherited eye condition like retinitis pigmentosa
  • take nitrates (medicines for chest pain)

You should talk to your doctor before taking Viagra if you:

  • have a blood condition like sickle cell anemia, or blood cancer like multiple myeloma or leukemia
  • have a deformity (curvature) of your penis like Peyronie’s disease
  • have a heart condition
  • have a stomach ulcer
  • have a bleeding problem (hemophilia)

Viagra can also interact with some other medications and cause serious side effects, so it`s important to discuss any medicines you may be taking with your physician before taking Viagra.

In short, the accidental discovery of Viagra has been a game-changer for many men, allowing them to enjoy full lives and fulfilling relationships. But before you start swinging from the chandelier, take a moment to educate yourself on the facts, leaving you free to enjoy the benefits of the “blue diamond” without any of the risks.