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Taking Viagra for the First Time? Here’s How to Get the Best Results

Key takeaways:

  • Viagra is a popular medication that’s used to help you achieve and maintain an erection — but it only works if you’re aroused.
  • If your erection lasts more than 4 hours, get medical attention right away. This is called priapism, and it can cause permanent damage.
  • You can take Viagra 30 minutes to up to 4 hours before sexual activity, but it shouldn’t be taken more than once daily.

Believe it or not, Viagra (sildenafil) is one of the most popular drugs in the U.S. The blue, diamond-shaped pill is known for its ability to help men suffering from erectile dysfunction (ED). If you’re using Viagra for the first time, here’s how you can get the most from your experience.

What is Viagra?

Viagra (sildenafil) is a drug commonly used to treat ED, a condition that over 150 million people worldwide are estimated to be affected by. While the brand name prescription comes in a blue pill form, generic sildenafil comes in a white pill. 

Though generic sildenafil can also be used to treat pulmonary arterial hypertension, only Revatio-equivalent sildenafil is approved by the FDA for this particular condition. Viagra’s generic for erectile dysfunction is prescribed in 25 mg, 50 mg, and 100 mg tablets.

How does Viagra work to treat ED?

When you’re aroused, your body releases nitric oxide down below — a molecule that triggers the events responsible for an erection. But an enzyme (protein) called phosphodiesterase type 5 (PDE5) breaks down certain messengers involved in this process, preventing the desired effect.

While there are a number of reasons why someone may have difficulty getting or maintaining an erection, PDE5 inhibitors that block this enzyme, like Viagra, are often used to help.

Viagra for men and similar ED drugs like Cialis (tadalafil) and Levitra (vardenafil) work by helping to relax muscles and arteries inside the penis, which helps more blood reach the penis. When aroused — and only when aroused — the combination of relaxation and increased blood flow helps fill the penis with blood. That’s how you’re able to achieve an erection.

How quickly does Viagra work?

After taking Viagra, the medication quickly enters your system and starts working after about an hour, but you can take it anywhere from 30 minutes to 4 hours before sexual activity. 

This means that you’ll want to take it about an hour before sexual activity, but you’ve got a wider window of time for when you can still get a benefit. However, as mentioned above, it only works if you’re aroused.

You may be wondering if there are ways to help the medication work even faster, like chewing or crushing the tablet and dissolving it under your tongue. However, it isn’t made to work that way and should be swallowed whole.

How long does Viagra last?

The effects of Viagra can last 4 to 8 hours, depending on the individual person and the dose you take. In fact, some people may experience more than one erection during this time. However, just because Viagra can stay in your body for up to 8 hours doesn’t mean your erection should last that long. 

In fact, if your erection lasts longer than 4 hours — even if it’s not painful — seek medical help right away. An erection lasting longer than 4 hours is known as priapism, a condition that can cause permanent damage to the tissue that helps you become erect. 

If you have sickle cell anemia, multiple myeloma, leukemia, or certain penile deformities (like Peyronie’s disease), you’re more likely to have a prolonged erection.

How do I take Viagra for the best results?

Here are a couple tips for taking Viagra safely and effectively:

Follow safe, recommended doses. 

The standard recommended dose of Viagra for treating ED is 50 mg, but your doctor could prescribe anywhere from 25 mg to 100 mg. 

Viagra is only recommended to be taken once per day. This means that if you’re planning on engaging in sexual activity more than once throughout the day, you shouldn’t take a pill every time. And if you take a pill and it doesn’t work for you — don’t double up and take another one. Exceeding the recommended Viagra dosage can put you at risk for serious effects.

Because Viagra can affect other parts of the body, such as the heart and lungs, it’s important to stick to the dose and instructions your doctor provides. And if your prescribed dose isn’t working for you, they may make adjustments to find one that works.

Take it on an empty stomach. 

Although it can be taken with or without food, Viagra tends to work best when taken on an empty stomach. So, to maximize its effects, try to take it separately from meals. 

But if you do end up eating beforehand, avoid taking it with a high-fat meal since this can affect how quickly the medication is absorbed — and how fast it kicks in.

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