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Medications for Erectile Dysfunction continued...

They are generally taken by mouth anywhere from 15 minutes to one hour before having sex -- depending on the drug -- and should not be used more than once a day. One medication, Cialis, may be taken up to 36 hours before sexual activity. Staxyn dissolves in the mouth, but the other medications are swallowed.

PDE-5 inhibitors relax smooth muscles in the penis, which increases blood flow to the area, helping the penis become erect during sexual activity. About 80% of men who take PDE-5 inhibitors have firmer and longer-lasting erections. However, if your erection lasts more than four hours, seek emergency medical help.

Side effects of PDE-5 inhibitors are usually mild but may include headache, stuffy nose, flushing, muscle aches, and rarely, a temporary blue-green shading of your vision.

You should not take PDE-5 inhibitors if you take nitrate drugs, such as nitroglycerin tablets for heart disease. Doing so can cause a dangerous drop in blood pressure. Men taking alpha-blockers for prostate problems or blood pressure should also be cautioned. Always make sure your doctor knows about all the medications you are taking, including over-the-counter drugs, herbs, and supplements.

Injections and Suppositories for Erectile Dysfunction

If the medications taken by mouth do not improve erection quality, or you cannot safely take such medications, your doctor may recommend a drug called alprostadil. It helps boost blood flow to the penis, automatically triggering an erection within minutes.

Alprostadil may be given in two ways:

Intracavernous drug injection. The medication is injected into the side of the penis. It involves sticking a needle directly into the penis, and it raises your risk for dangerously prolonged erections (called priaprism) and scarring.

Intraurethral suppositories. Pellets containing alprostadil are placed into the urethra at the tip of the penis. Such treatment is called MUSE (which means medicated urethral system for erections). This therapy may be less successful than injections.

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