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Last updated: Jan 20, 2022
5 min read

Viagra didn’t work? Here are some tips

yael cooperman

Medically Reviewed by Yael Cooperman, MD

Written by Michael Martin

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.

So the little blue pill was a big disappointment. You took Viagra (generic name sildenafil) for the first time, and it didn’t give you the erection you were expecting. Don’t get discouraged, though. Certain things can affect how well the drug works for you, including how soon after you take it you try to get an erection, what you ate and drank before you took it, and whether you have the right dosage or medication. 

We’ve covered everything you need to know and what you should ask your healthcare provider if it’s still not working. 

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How does Viagra work?

To understand why Viagra didn’t work, it’s helpful to understand how it’s supposed to work. Erections happen when you’re aroused, and your brain triggers blood to flow into your penis. Anything that blocks that blood flow, or cuts it short when you’re trying to keep it up, can lead to erectile dysfunction—the inability to get or maintain an erection long enough for satisfying sex.

Things that can disrupt the blood flow include problems with the blood vessels themselves (like plaque buildup in the arteries associated with heart disease, damage to the blood vessels or nerves from high blood sugar associated with diabetes, and more). 

Viagra works by keeping the blood in the penis once it gets there. But that’s why the drug doesn’t work as an instant boner pill: You need to be aroused in order for it to work. 

So why might your dose not be working for you? These are some things to explore:

How to get better results from Viagra: 8 tips

If Viagra (generic name sildenafil; see Important Safety Information) isn’t working the way you want it to, there are some simplet things you can try before throwing in the towel. Here are eight strategies. 

1. Make sure you’re aroused

For better or worse, Viagra isn’t a magic pill. It won’t give you an instant erection. You still need to be aroused to get an erection, and Viagra can help strengthen or maintain your erection.  If you tried Viagra and the results were underwhelming, maybe your head wasn’t in the game that night, or you were stressed or tired. You might just need to give things another try. 

To get the best results from Viagra, make sure you get yourself in the mood. Some people find that trying the medication on their own first is helpful so they can learn how their body responds to it. Also, there’s nothing more arousing than intimacy, so speak to your partner about what you both like to make sure you each get the best shot at having an enjoyable experience.

2. Give it enough time to work (but don’t wait too long)

Using Viagra can require some planning, but don’t let that zap your spontaneity. Aim to take your dose about one hour before you plan to have sex. The drug should remain effective for up to four hours. But keep in mind, if you popped a pill right before heading to bed (or at lunchtime before your 8 pm date) it is less likely to work when you need it to. You might want to try again, ensuring you take Viagra within the proper effectiveness window. 

Some people find this inconvenient. Luckily there are other medication choices. Cialis (generic name tadalafil; see Important Safety Information), for example, can be taken daily and stays in your system for up to 36 hours. Some people find that this regimen gives them more flexibility and requires less planning than medication like Viagra.

3. Skip high-fat meals before taking Viagra

High-fat meals can delay the absorption of Viagra from your digestive system into your bloodstream, meaning that the medication might not be as effective as you expected. If you ate a heavy or high-fat meal before taking Viagra, your erection might come later than expected, be less strong than you expected, or won’t last as long as you would’ve liked. You can try taking the medication on an empty stomach to see how your body responds. 

4. Alcohol can make it hard to stay hard.

Alas, Viagra is no cure for “whiskey dick.” Alcohol is a depressant that affects every system in the body, including those that produce an erection. Alcohol, recreational drugs, and marijuana can all worsen the symptoms of ED. And chronic heavy drinking can damage the liver, heart, and nerves and reduce testosterone—all of which can lead to ED. Opt for an alcohol-free beverage at dinner and see if that helps. 

5. Maybe a different drug or treatment option is right for you.

Simply put, Viagra might just not be your jam. There are several other strategies you can try for ED, including other oral medications such as Cialis (tadalafil), penis pumps, cock rings, ED drugs delivered by injection (such as alprostadil), and sonic therapy. Speak with your provider about the various treatment options. Some you can explore on your own.

6. Speak with your healthcare provider about a different dose

Brand name Viagra is available in three dosages: 25 mg, 50 mg, and 100 mg. The most common starting dose is 50 mg, but your healthcare provider will determine the right dose for you based on your medical history, current health, and the medications and supplements you’re taking. If Viagra isn’t working for you, you might need a higher dose. But don’t experiment on your own: Always speak with a healthcare provider about dosage changes and never take more than one dose of Viagra in any 24 hour period. 

7. Get treatment for underlying conditions

The potential causes of ED are numerous and could involve things including depression, stress, or performance anxiety. ED can also sign of several other serious health conditions, including heart disease, high blood pressure, or diabetes. Staying up to date on regular health checkups and keeping your blood sugar and blood pressure in check are important for your overall health. But they can also help you manage your ED. Make sure to check in with your healthcare provider to ensure you don’t have any underlying conditions that might be contributing. 

Certain medications can also affect the way your body absorbs Viagra. There’s a special enzyme in your liver called cyp3a4, and it’s involved in breaking down Viagra in your bloodstream. Other medications can sometimes speed up this process, making your Viagra dosage less effective. Medications and supplements that might affect the effectiveness of your Viagra include phenobarbital, phenytoin, rifampicin, St. John’s Wort, and glucocorticoids, among others.

8. Make sure you’re getting enough exercise. 

Studies have found that being sedentary is a major risk factor for ED. Studies have found that men who were inactive or moderately active (30 to 149 minutes of physical activity a week) had 40% to 60% higher odds of ED compared to active men who got 150 or more minutes of physical activity weekly (Gerbild, 2018). Why? Viagra works best when you’re healthy, including your heart, so it can effectively pump blood throughout the body—including to the penis. Getting regular exercise is one of the best things you can do to ensure cardiovascular health. 

Potential side effects of Viagra

You might also have experienced a side effect of Viagra that made your sexual experience less than ideal. Common side effects of Viagra include dizziness, headache, flushing, upset stomach or indigestion, increased sensitivity to light, blurred vision, “blue-tinted” vision, a stuffy or runny nose, back pain, insomnia, rash, and muscle pain.

Less common side effects of Viagra include priapism (a prolonged erection that won’t go away), heart attack-like symptoms, eye problems such as sudden vision loss, ringing in ears or hearing loss, seizures, or swelling in the extremities. (If you experience any of those, seek medical attention right away).

If you took Viagra and were disappointed by the results, that’s okay. Don’t throw in the towel. Sometimes our sexual health needs a bit more attention than usual. Consult your healthcare provider about next steps. A healthy sex life is worth it.

References

  1. Gerbild, H., Larsen, C. M., Graugaard, C., & Areskoug Josefsson, K. (2018). Physical activity to improve erectile function: a systematic review of intervention studies. Sexual Medicine, 6(2), 75–89. doi: 10.1016/j.esxm.2018.02.001. Retrieved from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5960035/