What Should I Know About Sexual Enhancement Drugs?
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What Should I Know About Sexual Enhancement Drugs?

Image for sexual enhancement article First of all, it’s important to understand some of the basics about sexual dysfunction. Sexual dysfunction can affect both men and women. It is also extremely common. Some studies have suggested that approximately 50% of all men and women experience some degree of sexual dysfunction at some point in their lives, and it becomes increasingly common as we age.

What Is Sexual Dysfunction in Men?

In men, sexual dysfunction refers to issues such as decreased desire, difficulty obtaining and/or maintaining an erection, and a variety of problems with ejaculation, ranging from premature ejaculation to the inability to ejaculate. Of these, difficulty obtaining or maintaining an erection (erectile dysfunction ) tends to be of the greatest concern.

What’s Available to Treat Erectile Dysfunction (ED) in Men?

There are three medications available to treat erectile dysfunction: sildenafil (Viagra), vardenafil (Levitra), and tadalafil (Cialis) all work in a similar fashion. They improve the functioning of nitric oxide, a naturally occurring chemical responsible for relaxing smooth muscle tissue. When the blood vessels in the smooth muscle of the penis is more relaxed, blood flow is increased, allowing a man to achieve and maintain an erection. Although a variety of conditions can cause ED (spinal cord injuries, high blood pressure and the medications used to treat high blood pressure, diabetes , heart disease, and depression ), sildenafil, vardenafil, and tadalafil have all proven helpful, regardless of the underlying problem.

Who Shouldn’t Use Medications for Erectile Dysfunction?

Men who have had a heart attack , stroke , or abnormal heart rhythm within the past six months should not use these medications. Furthermore, men who already use nitrate medications (for example, to treat angina ) or alpha-blockers should never use any of these medications. Men with severe liver or kidney disease; certain eye disorders; uncontrolled, high, or significantly low blood pressure; or who have been advised to avoid sexual activity due to unstable heart disease should also not take these medications.

What’s Sexual Dysfunction in Women?

In women, sexual dysfunction can take the form of decreased sexual desire or libido, difficulty becoming sexually aroused, decreased sexual enjoyment, inability to have an orgasm, abnormal vaginal muscular contractions (vaginismus), or actual pain with intercourse.

What’s Available to Treat Sexual Dysfunction in Women?

There are no medications currently approved specifically for the treatment of female sexual dysfunction. Research is ongoing in this area, including research into the use of sildenafil in women.

However, Proctor and Gamble is gaining approval for a testosterone patch that will be marketed for the treatment of low libido in postmenopausal women. Decreasing levels of testosterone have long been implicated in lower libido in both men and women. Proctor and Gamble’s transdermal testosterone patch, projected to be marketed under the name “Intrinsa,” is worn on the lower abdomen. It releases a consistent, small dose of testosterone, and appears to be effective at improving libido in women who are postmenopausal—either naturally or due to surgical removal of the ovaries. When research is complete, more information will be available about who should or shouldn’t consider using the testosterone patch, as well as its possible side effects.


American Academy of Family Physicians

4 Mens' Health


Canadian Family Physician

Health Canada


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Last reviewed June 2008 by Jill D. Landis, MD

Please be aware that this information is provided to supplement the care provided by your physician. It is neither intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice. CALL YOUR HEALTHCARE PROVIDER IMMEDIATELY IF YOU THINK YOU MAY HAVE A MEDICAL EMERGENCY. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider prior to starting any new treatment or with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.

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