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Medicines for Erection Problems: Reactions With Nitrate

Topic Overview

Phosphodiesterase-5 inhibitors, such as sildenafil (for example, Viagra), have revolutionized the treatment of erection problems (erectile dysfunction). But they can cause life-threatening side effects for anyone who also takes nitroglycerin or another medicine containing an organic nitrate. This combination can make your blood pressure fall too low, possibly leading to a stroke, a heart attack, or death. Do not take nitrate-containing medicines up to 24 hours after you take sildenafil (for example, Viagra) or vardenafil (for example, Levitra), or up to 48 hours after you take tadalafil (for example, Cialis).

Medicines that contain organic nitrates include:

  • Nitroglycerin (such as Nitro-Dur, Nitrolingual, Nitrostat).
  • Isosorbide (such as Dilatrate, Isordil).
  • Nitroprusside (such as Nitropress).
  • Amyl nitrite or amyl nitrate (sometimes called "poppers"), which are sometimes abused.

Nitrates found in foods are not a danger when taking phosphodiesterase-5 inhibitors.

References

Other Works Consulted

  • Levine GN, et al. (2012). Sexual activity and cardiovascular disease: A scientific statement from the American Heart Association. Circulation, 125(8): 1058–1072.

Credits

By Healthwise Staff
E. Gregory Thompson, MD - Internal Medicine
Christopher G. Wood, MD, FACS - Urology, Oncology
Last Revised May 14, 2012

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