Are erectile dysfunction pills safe for men with heart disease?


In men without cardiovascular disease, erectile dysfunction (ED) pills are very safe. The three rivals -- Viagra, Cialis and Levitra -- have similar side effects, including headache, facial flushing, nasal congestion, diarrhea, backache, and, in a few Viagra or Levitra users, temporary impaired color vision (men with retinitis pigmentosa, a rare eye disease, should check with their ophthalmologists before using these medications).

Headaches and blue vision are one thing, cardiac abnormalities, quite another. Are ED pills safe for the heart?

These drugs are safe for healthy hearts, but all men with cardiovascular disease should take special precautions, and some cannot use them under any circumstances. The problem is their effect on arteries. All arteries, not just those in the penis, generate nitric oxide, so any artery can widen in response to Viagra, Levitra, or Cialis, causing blood pressure to drop temporarily by 5-8 mmHg, even in healthy men.




Organic nitrates are drugs that widen arteries by increasing their supply of nitric oxide; that's how they open the partially blocked coronary arteries in patients with angina. But because nitrates and ED pills both act on nitric oxide, the drugs don't mix; All experts agree that men who are taking nitrates cannot use ED pills

Faced with concern about ED pills and the heart, the FDA has urged caution in patients who have suffered heart attacks, strokes, or serious disturbances of the heart's pumping rhythm in the previous six months, in men with a history of congestive heart failure or unstable angina, and in men with low blood pressure or uncontrolled high blood pressure (above 170/110 mm Hg).

Faced with all these warnings, should any man use Viagra, Levitra or Cialis? Indeed, no one should use them needlessly or recklessly, but 20 million american men have erectile dysfunction, and most can use them safely.

Reference: health.harvard.edu

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