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Side Effects of ED Meds

By Kire Stojkovski M.D
Editor Shannon Ancrum Published 20 March 2024
Time to read 5 min

Erectile Dysfunction (ED) is a sexual health condition that affects the ability of males to achieve or maintain an erection. ED can be challenging to live with, often causing stress, relationship strain, and self-confidence issues. However, numerous treatments are available, including oral medications, often the first line of treatment. 

These medications come with their own set of side effects. This article provides an in-depth exploration of ED, the common oral medications used for its treatment, and their potential side effects.

Symptoms of Erectile Dysfunction

The ED’s primary symptom is difficulty obtaining or maintaining an erection during sexual activity. Other related sexual disorders that may co-exist with ED include premature ejaculation, delayed ejaculation, and anorgasmia (inability to achieve orgasm after ample stimulation). 

If these symptoms persist for three or more months, it’s advisable to consult a healthcare professional.

Common Oral Medications for ED

Oral medications for ED work by enhancing the effects of nitric oxide, a body-produced chemical that relaxes penile muscles. This relaxation increases blood flow, facilitating an erection in response to sexual stimulation. The four main oral medications popularly used to manage ED include:

  • Sildenafil (Viagra)
  • Tadalafil (Cialis)
  • Vardenafil (Levitra)
  • Avanafil (Stendra)

Potential Side Effects

While oral ED medications are generally safe for most men, they may come with a variety of side effects. It’s important to note that not everyone experiences these side effects, and even when they occur, they may go away as your body adjusts to the medication.

The common side effects associated with oral ED medications include:[1]

  • Headaches: This is the most common side effect. It’s caused by the sudden change in blood flow caused by the medication. [2]
  • Body aches and pains: Some people report muscle aches and pains throughout their body and especially in their back.
  • Digestive system problems: Your ED medication can cause uncomfortable digestive system side effects. The most common are indigestion and diarrhea.
  • Dizziness: In some cases, ED medications can cause a drop in blood pressure, resulting in dizziness.
  • Changes in vision: ED medications can change the way you see things — literally. They can temporarily alter your eyesight and even cause blurry vision.
  • Flushes: Flushes are temporary periods of redness of the skin. Flushes usually develop on your face and may also spread to parts of your body.
  • Congestion and runny nose: All ED medications can cause congestion.
  • Priapism: This is a persistent and painful erection lasting more than 4 hours. If not treated immediately, it can cause lasting damage to the penis.

In rare cases, some men may also experience sudden hearing or vision loss. If you experience any of these side effects, seek immediate medical help.

Characteristic side effects of Avanafil

Avanafil (Stendra) is a prescription medication for treating erectile dysfunction. Compared to other medications in its class, Avanafil kicks in the fastest. Headache, skin flushing, nasal symptoms, and back pain are the most common Avanafil side effects. They’re usually short-lived and go away on their own.

Rarely, Avanafil can cause painful erections lasting longer than 4 hours, vision problems, and heart problems. These situations require immediate medical attention. [3]

Interactions and Contraindications of ED Medications

ED medications can interact with other medications and may not be suitable if you have certain health conditions. For instance, ED drugs can dangerously lower blood pressure when used with nitrate drugs, often prescribed for chest pain (angina), or alpha-blockers, prescribed for hypertension or prostate problems

Moreover, ED medications may not be safe for people with certain health conditions like severe heart or liver disease, very low blood pressure, recent stroke or heart attack, or certain rare inherited eye diseases.

Therefore, discussing your complete medical history and any medications you are currently taking with your healthcare provider before starting any ED medication is important.

Are ED Meds Safe

Despite the potential side effects, it’s important to note that ED medications are generally safe for most men. They have been extensively tested and approved by regulatory bodies such as the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) in the United States.

However, they are not suitable for everyone. Men with certain health conditions, such as heart disease, uncontrolled high blood pressure, or a history of stroke, should avoid these medications. Additionally, these drugs can interact with other medications, such as nitrates used to treat chest pain, causing potentially life-threatening drops in blood pressure.

Therefore, discussing your medical history and any medications you are currently taking with your healthcare provider before starting ED medication is essential.

Is It Worth Taking ED Meds

The decision to take ED meds is a personal one that should be made in consultation with a healthcare provider. While these medications can effectively treat ED and improve sexual function, they also come with potential side effects.

It’s important to weigh the benefits of these medications against their potential drawbacks. For many men, the improved sexual function and quality of life that these drugs provide outweigh the potential side effects.

However, it’s also crucial to consider other treatment options, such as lifestyle changes or alternative treatments, which may have fewer side effects.

Conclusion: Dealing with Side Effects of ED Meds

In conclusion, while ED meds can effectively treat erectile dysfunction and improve sexual function, they also come with potential side effects. However, with the right knowledge and strategies, these side effects can often be managed effectively.

It’s important to discuss any concerns or side effects with your healthcare provider and consider all treatment options, including lifestyle changes and alternative treatments. Remember, the goal of treatment is to improve your quality of life. With the right approach, you can manage the side effects of ED meds and enjoy a healthy and satisfying sexual life.


1. 1. Gresser U, Gleiter CH. Erectile dysfunction: Comparison of efficacy and side effects of the PDE-5 inhibitors sildenafil, vardenafil, and tadalafil review of the literature. Eur J Med Res. 2002;7:435–46

2. 2.Ferrari A. Headache: One of the most common and troublesome adverse reactions to drugs. Curr Drug Safety. 2006;1:43–58. doi: 10.2174/157488606775252610

3. 3.Evans, J. D., & Hill, S. R. (2015). A comparison of the available phosphodiesterase-5 inhibitors in the treatment of erectile dysfunction: A focus on avanafil. Patient preference and adherence, 9, 1159-1164. https://doi.org/10.2147/PPA.S56002