Erectile dysfunction drugs – Can help sexual recovery

Erectile dysfunction drugs, such as Viagra, Cialis, and Levitra, all help increase blood flow to the penis.

Some studies suggest that regular use of these drugs soon after surgery for prostate cancer may help improve erection problems.

A long history of use

Viagra was the first to hit the U.S. market in the late 1990s.  Levitra and Cialis were approved by the FDA in 2003.

One study by Mosbah et al suggests that early use of erectile dysfunction drugs (and other methods of penile rehabilitation) brings “forward the natural healing time of potency and maintains nerve-assisted erection.”

But you should know that these drugs will not help if both nerve bundles have been surgically removed, or suffered severe damage during treatment for prostate cancer.

Erectile dysfunction drugs: not magic pills

If you are expecting an “instant erection” sufficient for sexual intercourse with any of these drugs immediately following surgery for prostate cancer, you may be disappointed.

While it’s different for every man, it may take some time and regular use of one of these drugs before you see the results that you are hoping for.  And a man must be aroused for the drug to work. These pills don’t work on their own and they are not a permanent cure for impotence.

If your loved one has been taking one drug for some time, and is not getting the results you want, he can talk to his doctor about a different dosage or trying another drug.

It’s also important to keep “trying.” It may help to think of your lovemaking sessions as practice sessions for at least the first year or so.

Erectile dysfunction drugs take time

Another potential change after prostate cancer is that your sex life may not be as spontaneous as it was before treatment. Many drugs take time to work — from 30 minutes to an hour — depending upon the drug.

The “window of opportunity” in which these drugs can work may also vary from about 4 hours to up to 36 hours, depending upon the drug. If a man’s erection lasts for more than 4 hours, however, he will need to seek immediate medical attention.

In the last few years, some drug manufacturers have developed daily formulations that claim to be “ready when you are.”  The reality is that results may vary.

May not be for every man

Men who take medicines called nitrates (including nitroglycerin) will not be able to use these drugs. It’s important for your loved one to discuss all his health issues honestly with his doctor.

Fortunately, there are many other options you can seek, including:

Back to sex after prostate cancer


American Cancer Society. Ways of dealing with sexual problems. Accessed March 17, 2015.

Cialis [Prescribing Information]. Eli Lilly and Company; Indianapolis, IN: 2008.

Levitra [Prescribing Information]. Bayer Healthcare Pharmaceuticals Inc.;Wayne, NJ: 2008.

Mosbah A, El Bahnasawy M, Osman Y, et al. Early Versus Late Rehabilitation of Erectile Function after Nerve-Sparing Radical Cystoprostatectomy: A Prospective Randomized Study. J Sex Med. 2010 Oct 26. [Epub ahead of print]

Viagra [Prescribing Information]. Pfizer Labs; New York, NY: 2007.

Walsh PC. Guide to Surviving Prostate Cancer. New York, NY: Time Warner Book Group; 2001.

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