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Sexual Wellness

How Long Does Viagra Last? Duration and Effects

Fact Checked

How long does it take for Viagra to start working and how long does it last? The answers aren’t the same for everyone. Find out here how it will affect you.

Last Updated: 11/03/2021

Written by

Kimberly Wilkes

Medically Reviewed by

Dr. Paul Thompson

If you suffer from erectile dysfunction (ED), we probably don’t have to tell you that it can really take a toll on a man’s self-esteem and happiness. ED is also linked to cardiovascular disease since the decreased blood flow that causes it might also be causing problems with the heart and circulation. Research also shows that partners of men with ED are more likely to have a worse quality of life and suffer from their own sexual dysfunction compared to partners of men without ED.

As a solution for ED, maybe you’re considering asking your healthcare provider about Viagra, the brand name version of the ED drug sildenafil. But you’re wondering about certain aspects of the drug such as how long does Viagra last? And what are its side effects? The short answer is that for most men Viagra’s effects can last for 2 to 6 hours. However, it’s more complicated than that and it’s not the same for every man. 

In this article, you’ll get an idea of how long it may last for you personally. You’ll also discover its side effects. With this information, you can open an effective dialogue with your doctor about whether Viagra is the right choice for your ED.  

How Does Viagra Work?

Put simply, Viagra increases blood flow to the penis. More specifically, it relaxes your blood vessels so blood can flow more easily into the corpus cavernosa, which are the pillars of spongy tissue on the shaft of the penis. This infusion of blood flow triggers an erection. In addition, Viagra is helpful for premature ejaculation. Because it can boost blood flow, Viagra is also used for idiopathic pulmonary hypertension, a condition that causes high blood pressure in the arteries of the lungs and the right side of the heart.

Viagra is a type of medication known as a phosphodiesterase type 5 inhibitor (PDE5 inhibitor). PDE5 is an enzyme that reduces blood flow. PDE5 inhibitors widen blood vessels by blocking the PDE5 enzyme. This increases blood flow to the corpus cavernosa of the penis, which in turn leads to an erection. In 1998, the FDA approved Viagra as the first oral treatment for ED. Other PDE5 inhibitors such as Cialis (tadalafil), Levitra (vardenafil), Stendra (avanafil) were introduced later.

How Long Does it Take for Viagra to Work?

In most men, Viagra can start working within 30 to 60 minutes of being swallowed. However, in some men, it can start to stimulate an erection it can begin to take effect within 14 minutes, or be delayed by as long as two hours. Generally, Viagra levels peak in the body 30 minutes to two hours after you take the medication. 

Viagra won’t work miracles on a man who isn’t in the mood or who is too stressed. For Viagra to be the most effective, you must feel sexually aroused.  

How Long Does Viagra Last?

The answer is: It depends. For most men, its duration of action lasts two to six hours. In rare cases, it can last up to 12 hours. Unfortunately, research also shows that for many men who have taken it for two years or more, Viagra stops working entirely.

Remember that Viagra helps men get and maintain normal erections. It normally won’t cause you to have an erection that lasts hours. If your erection hurts and lasts more than four hours, you should go to the emergency room.

How long Viagra lasts varies depending on a number of factors. Here are some factors that determine how long Viagra promotes sexual activity:

• Drinking Alcohol – This can reduce blood flow and make Viagra less effective.

Smoking – This is another factor that deprives your penis of healthy blood flow, which may interfere with Viagra’s actions. 

Your Mental Health – Stress, depression, anxiety, or nervousness can block sexual arousal. If you’re suffering from any of these psychological factors or if you have performance anxiety, chances are good Viagra won’t do its job effectively. 

Aging – Surprisingly, in some cases, Viagra may actually last longer in men over 65. This is because these men have slower metabolisms. On the other hand, research shows Viagra was the most effective in improving erections in men under 65 years (80% of the men reported improvement) and the least effective in men 75 or older (only 59% experienced improved erections). In the 65-year-old to 74-year-old age group, 69% reported enhanced erections after taking Viagra. 

Diet – Taking Viagra with a lot of food or after consuming a meal high in fat can interfere with the way the drug is metabolized. On the other hand, taking it on an empty stomach may cause it to start working faster and last longer. In addition, drinking grapefruit juice can delay how quickly Viagra starts working. 

Other Medications – Some pharmaceutical drugs can interfere with the way Viagra works. This is especially true with antibiotics such as erythromycin, clarithromycin, and ciprofloxacin. 

Other Health Conditions – Men with ED often have other health problems such as diabetes and heart disease, which reduce blood flow. In men with these conditions, Viagra might not last as long. On the opposite end of the spectrum, men with certain kidney diseases that affect metabolism may find that Viagra lasts longer. 

Dosage – As you would expect, the highest dose used (100mg) lasts longer than the lowest dose (25mg). However, it’s not safe for every man to take 100mg, so talk to your doctor about the right dosage for you. In addition, men can only take Viagra once every 24 hours, otherwise harmful levels build up in the body. This can lead to a painful erection that lasts more than four hours, a condition known as priapism. If this happens go to the ER immediately! If priapism isn’t treated right away it can cause long-term damage to your penis.

Many men can have several erections after taking a dose of the drug. In men with ED, it’s estimated that an hour after taking Viagra erections can last 26 minutes compared to only three minutes in men not taking the drug.

Just remember that your body must recover from one orgasm before you can get another erection. The same is true while on Viagra. Scientists call this recovery time the refractory period. Research has found that Viagra may reduce the refractory period, but this resting time is still necessary.

How Long Does Viagra Take To Leave Your Body?

In most men, Viagra leaves the system within two to three hours. Sometimes, depending on a man’s metabolism, Viagra can remain in the system for up to six hours. If you take a higher dose, it may stay in your body longer. For example, a 100mg dose may take as much as four times longer to leave your body compared with a 25mg dose. 

Common Side Effects of Viagra 

Before deciding whether Viagra is the right choice for you, talk to your healthcare provider about the possible side effects. These effects of Viagra can include:

• Headache

• Flushing

• Upset stomach or nausea

• Blurred vision or changes in your color vision. Some men have reported a blue color tinge.

• Stuffy or runny nose

• Back pain

• Muscle pain

• Rash

More Serious Side Effects

In rare cases Viagra is linked to more serious side effects. If you experience these effects, seek medical attention right away:

• Sudden vision loss in one or both eyes

• Sudden full or partial hearing loss

• Ringing in the ears (tinnitus)

• Dizziness

• Erections that last longer than four hours

There have been reports of men having heart attacks, strokes, and irregular heartbeats after taking Viagra. Because most of these men had preexisting heart conditions, it hasn’t been determined whether Viagra definitely caused these problems. Allergic reactions can also occur.

Who Shouldn’t Take Viagra?

Men who are taking a class of drugs known as nitrates shouldn’t take Viagra. These medications are often used to treat chest pain (angina). 

You should also avoid Viagra if you’re taking medications called guanylate cyclase stimulators such as Adempas (riociguat), which are used for pulmonary hypertension. Taking Viagra with these drugs can cause seriously low blood pressure. In addition, don’t take Viagra if you’re allergic to sildenafil, its main ingredient.

Viagra Alternatives 

Viagra is a popular prescription medication for ED. However, it’s not right for every guy. If Viagra hasn’t worked for you or if you fall into the group of men who shouldn’t take Viagra, talk to your doctor about these alternatives:

Penis pumps – Devices that use air suction to draw blood into the penis. 

Penile implants – Devices surgically implanted into the penis. They produce erections on demand for men with ED. 

ED Exercises – Pelvic exercises that improve erectile function. In one study from the United Kingdom, 40% of men with ED who performed these exercises were able to have normal erections once again. Another 35.5% of the men didn’t have complete improvement, but their erectile function improved considerably.   

Lifestyle Changes – Giving up smoking, drinking less alcohol, engaging in more aerobic exercise, and losing weight may all enhance your ability to have and maintain erections. 

Penile Injections – These injections work by widening blood vessels in the penis and improving blood flow. Three medications—alone or together—are injected into the penis. Your doctor performs the first two treatments, then you continue with the injections at home. These injections are painful, which is why many men avoid them. 

Low-Intensity Extracorporeal Shockwave Therapy (Li-ESWT) – These devices use powerful soundwaves to fix poor blood flow, the leading cause of ED. They safely dissolve blood-vessel-blocking plaque to improve blood flow. They also promote the growth of new blood vessels. In the past, only a medical professional could perform these treatments, but now Li-ESWT is available in the comfort of your home without a prescription. 

Switching to a Different ED Drug – Other ED drugs can start to work faster than Viagra. For example, Stendra begins working in 15 minutes on average. Another option is Cialis Daily tablets, which are taken every day. Since this form of Cialis is always in your system, sex can be more spontaneous.    

Medications or Mental Health Therapy – If your ED is caused by depression or anxiety, your doctor may use prescription drugs to treat the problem. They might also recommend working with a therapist.

The bottom line? Viagra can start working fairly quickly and the duration of its effects last long enough for you to have more than one erection. However, Viagra does have possible side effects. Talk to your doctor to find out if it’s the right option for you. 

FAQs About Viagra

Besides wondering how long Viagra lasts, you may have other concerns about this medication. Here are some other important facts about Viagra.  

Does Viagra Keep You Hard After Having an Orgasm?

Viagra is designed to make it easier to have and maintain an erection. However, once you’re done ejaculating, your erection should subside. You’ll remain in a resting period until you become sexually stimulated again. At this point Viagra may help you have another erection as long as there’s still some in your system. If your erection lasts longer than four hours you should seek medical help.

How Long Before Sexual Activity Should I Take Viagra?

The recommended approach is to take Viagra an hour before sex to give it time to start working. 

How Much Viagra Can You Take In One Day?

In a 24-hour period, you should not exceed your recommended dosage. If your doctor prescribed 25mg that dosage is the most you should take in one day. If your recommended daily dose is 50mg or 100mg, then you should not exceed that amount. Doing so increases the chances of serious side effects. If you feel like you need a higher daily dose, talk to your doctor. 

Does Viagra Affect Penis Size?

Viagra can’t make your penis physically larger. However, if you have ED and you’re not used to becoming fully hard, taking Viagra will likely give you more complete erections, which might make your penis seem bigger than before.