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The Best Pills for Erectile Dysfunction

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The Best Pills for Erectile Dysfunction

Kristin Hall, FNP
Medically reviewed by Kristin Hall, FNPWritten by Our Editorial TeamLast updated 9/05/2020

Dealing with erectile dysfunction can be a stressful process, affecting everything from your sex life to your emotional wellbeing. 

Erectile dysfunction, or ED, can range in severity. If you have severe ED, you might find that it’s difficult to get an erection at all, even when you’re feeling aroused. If your ED is less severe, you might simply notice that you aren’t fully hard, or that you often lose your erection during sex. 

When ED strikes, it’s easy — and normal — to feel a little embarrassed and even ashamed.

This can often make the problem worse by causing you to avoid sexual activity, or feel apprehensive before sex. 

We get it — it’s hard on us. Luckily, what you’re experiencing is common, and treatment options are available. 

Today, a range of proven, highly effective medications are available to treat erectile dysfunction. These include well-known pills like Viagra®, as well as an entire range of newer treatments. 

Each type of ED pill offers its own range of unique benefits, as well as some downsides that you should be aware of. We’ve listed these ED pills below and provided our thoughts on which pill is likely the best option for you based on your ED symptoms, lifestyle and needs. 

Interested in learning more about ED? Learn more about the causes of ED in our detailed guide, or schedule a free online consultation to talk to a healthcare provider  about the best ED treatment for you. 

What Causes Erectile Dysfunction? 

Before we look at the options for treating ED, it’s important to explain why erectile dysfunction happens in the first place.

Erectile dysfunction can occur for a variety of reasons. Sometimes it’s physical, meaning your body physically can’t supply the penis with sufficient blood flow to give you a steady, consistent erection. 

This can often stem from cardiovascular health issues such as heart disease, atherosclerosis, high cholesterol, and high blood pressure. Diabetes, which damages your nerves, also has the potential to cause physical erectile dysfunction.

It’s also possible for conditions like Parkinson’s disease, multiple sclerosis, Peyronie’s disease, sleep disorders, alcoholism and drug abuse to contribute to physical ED. 

Sometimes, erectile dysfunction isn’t caused by a physical factor, but a psychological one. If you feel stressed, depressed, fatigued or simply find it difficult to get aroused, you might not be able to get an erection before or during sex. 

Sexual performance anxiety is also a potential cause of psychological ED. 

Finally, frequent use of pornography can change the degree to which you become aroused by real-life sexual activity, potentially affecting your ability to get and stay hard.

If you’re experiencing erectile dysfunction, it could potentially be caused by one or several of the factors listed above. 

What’s the Best ED Pill?

Currently, there are four different erectile dysfunction pills available on the market in the United States. They are sildenafil (the active ingredient in Viagra), tadalafil (Cialis®), vardenafil (Levitra®) and avanafil (Stendra®). 

All of these pills achieve approximately the same effects — making it easier for you to get hard and stay that way during sexual activity. However, there are some subtle differences between each pill that could make one a better option for you than the others.

For example, certain ED pills have a longer half-life than others, meaning they’ll keep working for longer. Others are shorter-acting, making them a better choice for a single night than for an entire weekend.

We’ve profiled all four ED treatments below, along with information on which pill is typically the best for each purpose.

Sildenafil (the Active Ingredient in Viagra)

Best for: Men who need an affordable, convenient erectile dysfunction pill that works for three to five hours at a time. 

Disadvantages: Only lasts for three to five hours and can only be used once per day. 

Sildenafil is the oldest, most popular pill for treating erectile dysfunction. You’ve probably heard of it as Viagra, the pill that’s been heavily marketed on TV, in magazines and in other forms of popular media for more than 20 years.

These days, sildenafil is available as a generic medication, meaning you no longer need to buy brand name Viagra to access it. It’s a prescription medication, meaning you’ll need to schedule a consultation with a healthcare provider and receive a prescription before you can buy and use it. 

Like all of the medications listed on this page, sildenafil is a PDE5 inhibitor. It works by inhibiting the enzyme that controls blood flow to the soft tissue of the penis. This makes it easier for blood to flow into your penis, helping you get and keep an erection when you’re aroused.

Contrary to popular belief, sildenafil will not cause you to randomly get erections. After you take sildenafil, you’ll only get an erection if and when you feel aroused. 

We’ve explained the specific details of how sildenafil works in more detail in our guide to how Viagra affects your sexual experience. For most men with ED, it’s a highly effective treatment, with more than 95 percent of men reporting satisfaction with its effects in a 2002 study. 

Advantages of Sildenafil

Sildenafil is affordable, readily available and effective. It lasts for about three to five hours after you use it, making it the best ED pill if you’re seeking a treatment that’s designed to last for one night of sexual activity. 

After you take sildenafil, it takes about 30 to 60 minutes for the medication to start working. You can safely take sildenafil with or without food, although taking it after a large, high-fat meal may slow down your body’s absorption of the medication. 

Sildenafil first came onto the market in 1998, giving it the longest track record of any medication used to treat ED. Because of this, a wealth of information is available on its effects, side effects and more.

Disadvantages of Sildenafil

If you’re looking for a single-night ED treatment, sildenafil’s three to five hour effects make it a good choice. However, its short duration of action also means it isn’t the best ED medication if you want something that will last for the entire day.

You can only use sildenafil once per day. This means that if you use it at midday, you won’t be able to use it again at night. 

Sildenafil can also cause certain side effects. Most of these are minor and temporary, although there are potential interactions that you should be aware of if you use medication to treat high blood pressure or other cardiovascular conditions. We’ve listed these side effects here

Overall, sildenafil is one of the best ED treatments if you only need to treat erectile dysfunction for a few hours at a time. Its short duration of action means that you can take it after dinner for relief from ED when you need it, without any lingering effects the next morning. 

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