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Last updated: Jan 10, 2023
4 min read

How long does it take for Cialis to work?

chimene richaPatricia Weiser PharmD

Medically Reviewed by Chimene Richa, MD

Written by Patricia Weiser, PharmD

Erectile dysfunction (ED) affects more than 50% of men between 40 and 70 and almost 20% of men over 20 in the United States (Sooriyamoorthy, 2022). 

Without treatment, ED can cause emotional stress for both the person experiencing it, as well as their partner. Fortunately, effective treatment options are available for ED, such as Viagra (see Important Safety Information) and Cialis (see Important Safety Information).

Thinking about asking your provider about taking Cialis to treat erectile dysfunction? Before taking it for the first time, you may want to know what to expect. Keep reading to learn how long Cialis takes to work, how long it lasts, and what to do if it doesn’t seem to be helping.

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How long does Cialis take to kick in? 

Cialis (tadalafil) takes about 1 to 2 hours to reach its maximum effects, which is a bit slower than Viagra (sildenafil) takes to kick in. Both drugs belong to a class of medications known as PDE-5 inhibitors, which work by increasing blood flow to the penis, making it easier to achieve and maintain an erection (Dhaliwal, 2022).

Cialis is different from other ED drugs because it has two different dosing options. Depending on your provider’s instructions, Cialis is either taken as needed before sex or once daily in a low dose. If you take Cialis as needed, plan on taking it at least 30 minutes before sexual activity, but be aware that it can take up to 2 hours to reach its full effectiveness. If you take daily Cialis, your healthcare provider will instruct you to take it at the same time each day, regardless of when (or if) you plan to have sex that day (DailyMed, 2022). 

How long does Cialis last? 

Another unique feature of Cialis is it keeps working in the body longer than other PDE-5 inhibitors. You can expect it to last for up to 36 hours—one and a half days—after you’ve taken a dose (DailyMed, 2022). Because of its lingering effects, some people call Cialis “the weekend pill” (Huang, 2013). Since you can’t always predict when you and your partner might become sexually aroused, Cialis allows for more spontaneity in your sex life. 

With some PDE-5 inhibitors, such as Viagra, certain foods can delay how long the drug takes to kick in. But, this isn’t the case for Cialis. You can conveniently take it with or without food and not have to worry about delaying its effects (Huang, 2013). 

One downside of the long-lasting action of Cialis is that there is a longer window in which you may experience side effects. Common side effects of Cialis include headache, upset stomach, back or muscle pain, flushing, dizziness, and changes in color vision in which objects may have a blue hue. Rare but serious side effects that require urgent medical attention may include very low blood pressure, sudden loss of vision or hearing, allergic reaction, or priapism (a painful erection that lasts 4 hours or longer) (Dhaliwal, 2022).

Cialis also carries a drug interaction risk with nitrate medications. Nitrates are drugs used to treat chest pain and related heart problems. Taking Cialis and nitrates within 48 hours of each other can cause a dangerous drop in blood pressure. Because Cialis stays in your system longer, this is a longer window than advised with other PDE-5 inhibitors. If a nitrate is needed and you’ve recently taken an ED drug, the nitrate should only be administered by a healthcare provider in a hospital or medical facility (DailyMed, 2022).

Is Cialis not working? Here are your options

You may be more prone to developing ED—and it may be more difficult to treat—if you have certain health conditions, such as high blood pressure, diabetes, high cholesterol, and heart disease. Depression and anxiety are also associated with ED. ED can also be a side effect of certain drugs used to treat these conditions. Smoking and alcohol use can also cause or worsen ED (Sooriyamoorthy, 2022). 

Cialis needs time to work. Make sure to give it up to 2 hours to take effect before deciding it’s not working. Also, keep in mind that, besides taking a pill like Cialis, certain lifestyle changes can help improve ED. Talk to your healthcare provider if you have questions about the best healthy diet or fitness routines for you. Getting control of your blood pressure, cholesterol, and weight, as well as stopping any smoking, drug use, or excessive alcohol use are all important in treating ED. 

If lifestyle changes along with Cialis are still not helping, there are other treatment options to consider, such as (Sooriyamoorthy, 2022):

Many effective treatment options are available for ED. If Cialis isn’t helping, talk to your healthcare provider. It may take some trial and error, along with some lifestyle changes, to find what works for you.

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.

References

  1. DailyMed. (2022). Cialis (tadalafil) tablets, for oral use. Retrieved on Nov. 16, 2022 from https://dailymed.nlm.nih.gov/dailymed/drugInfo.cfm?setid=bcd8f8ab-81a2-4891-83db-24a0b0e25895 
  2. Dhaliwal, A. & Gupta, M. (2022). PDE5 Inhibitors. StatPearls. Retrieved on Nov. 16, 2022 from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK549843/ 
  3. Huang, S. A. & Lie, J. D. (2013). Phosphodiesterase-5 (PDE5) inhibitors in the management of erectile dysfunction. P & T: A Peer-Reviewed Journal for Formulary Management, 38(7), 407–419. Retrieved from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3776492/
  4. Sooriyamoorthy, T. & Leslie, S. W. (2022). Erectile dysfunction. StatPearls. Retrieved on Dec. 23, 2022 from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK562253/

Dr. Chimene Richa is a board-certified Ophthalmologist and Senior Medical Writer/Reviewer at Ro.