Erectile dysfunction: The Viagra revolution

It was a problem that few men talked about, preferring silent suffering to the shame and embarrassment associated with impotence. In 1992, an expert panel convened by the National Institutes of Health tried to remove the stigma by offering the term "erectile dysfunction" (ED) to replace "impotence," which is derived from the Latin for "loss of power." It was a good idea, but it didn't help. But everything changed in the spring of 1998, when sildenafil (Viagra) burst on the scene. Within days, male sexuality was making headlines, and within weeks, sales of the little blue pill were making history.

Viagra has helped countless men with impotence, and it has spawned the development of two similar drugs, vardenafil (Levitra) and tadalafil (Cialis). But ED pills have created a stigma of their own; many men who cannot use or who don't respond to them feel a new sense of shame and frustration. It's a pity since effective alternatives are available.

What causes impotence, and how do Viagra, Levitra, and Cialis help? And what can men do if these popular medications fail?

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