Can you take erectile dysfunction medication long term?

Reviewed by Yael Cooperman, MD, Ro, 

Reviewed by Yael Cooperman, MD, Ro, 

LAST UPDATED: Aug 02, 2023

4 MIN READ

ED can be difficult to talk about, but it’s incredibly common, and effective treatments are available. But treating ED when it’s a short-term issue is one thing---what about long-term ED? ED medications are designed to treat, not cure. So is it safe to take ED medication for a long period of time? Are there other options? We spoke with Dr. Michael Reitano, an expert in Sexual Health and Ro’s Physician-in-Residence, to discuss what ED is, options for treatment when it’s a long-term issue, and how to manage it in your daily life.

What causes ED? Will Viagra cure it?

Erectile dysfunction is basically a blood flow issue. When you’re aroused, blood flows into the penis to give you an erection. But if there’s a problem with that blood flow (like damage to the blood vessels that supply the penis which can be caused by conditions like high blood pressure or diabetes), it can hinder your ability to get an erection

That’s why ED can be considered a red flag issue for your general health. It affects more than a third of men under 40 and more than 70% of men over the age of 70 and is often a harbinger of an underlying health issue that needs attention. 

Medications like Viagra work by opening up those blood vessels and improving blood flow to the penis, but Viagra won’t cure erectile dysfunction. It only treats the symptoms.

It is reassuring, though, that if you have no medical reasons preventing its use, you can take Viagra for years and it will remain effective and safe. Remember, ED has a cause. It could be diabetes, high blood pressure, vascular disease, or abnormal hormone levels, just as examples. Unless the underlying cause is removed, the ongoing need for Viagra will remain. If you have ED, Viagra is a safe and effective treatment, but you should check in with your healthcare provider and be vigilant for any health changes. Report anything new or different and be sure to tell your provider about all the medications you are taking to stay on top of your health. 

Can you take ED medications like Viagra for a long time?

Yes. While we don’t have any studies specifically evaluating the use of medications like Viagra over the course of decades, Viagra is safe to use long-term. The FDA approved Viagra to treat erectile dysfunction in 1998, which means some men have been using Viagra for a quarter century already. By the end of 2005, more than 27 million men worldwide had used Viagra—including an estimated 17 million men in the US. 

Viagra was the first medication to treat ED and it has a long and well-documented safety record, though any medication with the power to heal also has the power to harm. Still, the safety profile is excellent when chosen for the appropriate reasons and for the right patients. So it’s important to work on your health and whatever may be contributing to your ED but for many people (though not all), the need for Viagra at some dose and frequency is part of their long-term medical plan. 

What does the data say about long-term side effects?

In 2007, a study was published on the long-term use of sildenafil (the generic name for Viagra) in men with ED. This 4-year study concluded that patients who responded well to the medication and had few or no side effects when using the medication tended to stick to that path. The rate of people experiencing “adverse events that resulted in dosage change or discontinuation” was low and there was no significant loss of effectiveness or even an increase in side effects over that time.

So in general, if Viagra is working for you, you can keep taking it under the guidance of your doctor. The one thing that’s important to mention is that as we get older, chronic conditions become more common, so it’s crucial to report new health issues and any and all medications you’re taking to your provider. 

What about Cialis? Is it the same?

Basically, the rate and severity of side effects are essentially the same with Viagra or Cialis though some patients may find one preferable to the other as the side effects can vary somewhat from person to person. 

Cialis (tadalafil) is in the same class of medications as Viagra (sildenafil) and much like Viagra, has been used for many years. Much like Viagra, there aren’t many studies specifically looking at the very long-term effects of the medication, but the drug’s track record and the studies that are available provide reassurance that it’s safe when used for extended periods of time. 

However, since Cialis, unlike Viagra, can be used in low, daily doses, it can alleviate the mental load of having to time your medication to when you want to have sex. It’s also important to know that if one medication isn’t working the way you had hoped, you can speak with your doctor about the possibility of combining daily Cialis with Viagra as needed to see if that might be a better option for you. Overall, both are safe drugs that have few side effects. 

As with Viagra, any new symptoms or side effects should be documented and reported. Even though a medication might be considered to be generally safe, even for a large number of patients, it doesn’t mean that an individual will not develop an unexpected complication. That’s why it’s important to tell all of your healthcare providers about any new conditions, medications, or side effects that you might notice—even ones that occur years after starting your medication.

What’s the bottom line?

There’s definitely room for more research into the extra-long-term effects of medications used to treat erectile dysfunction, but the data we do have provides a solid first step needed to give us the information and assurance we need to continue prescribing these medications to help alleviate symptoms of ED.

Considering the massive number of patients using these drugs and just how long they’ve been on the market, they’re generally safe for long-term use under the guidance of a doctor. The bottom line is: Yes. If youxqa have taken Viagra appropriately, without significant side effects, with good results, and with no changes in your health or medical regimen, it is safe to continue to take Viagra under the guidance of your doctor. 

DISCLAIMER

If you have any medical questions or concerns, please talk to your healthcare provider. The articles on Health Guide are underpinned by peer-reviewed research and information drawn from medical societies and governmental agencies. However, they are not a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment.


How we reviewed this article

Every article on Health Guide goes through rigorous fact-checking by our team of medical reviewers. Our reviewers are trained medical professionals who ensure each article contains the most up-to-date information, and that medical details have been correctly interpreted by the writer.

Current version

August 02, 2023

Written by

Dr. Michael Reitano, MD

Fact checked by

Yael Cooperman, MD


About the medical reviewer

Yael Cooperman is a physician and works as a Senior Manager, Medical Content & Education at Ro.

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