Harvard Men's Health Watch

Viagra and health: Beyond ED

When the history of men's health is written, 1998 will go down as a banner year. That's when sildenafil (Viagra) was approved by the FDA to treat erectile dysfunction (ED). But when the history of sildenafil is written, 2005 will also be special. That's when the FDA approved the medication that revolutionized male sexuality for a nonsexual condition. The illness is pulmonary hypertension, and sildenafil is prescribed for it under the brand name Revatio.

Sildenafil for ED

Sildenafil was the first effective oral medication for ED. In 2003 it was joined by vardenafil (Levitra) and tadalafil (Cialis). Although there are some differences between these drugs (vardenafil starts working sooner and tadalafil works longer), they all act in exactly the same way to combat ED.

The three drugs are so similar because they share a common target, an enzyme called phosphodiesterase-5 (PDE-5). To understand why blocking PDE-5 improves sexual function, however, you have to know how erections develop.

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