Hormones and Men: Viagra

Information on Viagra

Viagra came onto the market like gangbusters. It carried a resounding message: “Our manhood is at risk, we have a problem with erections, and we are going to correct it quickly before anyone gets a chance to take a closer, more in-depth look at what is really going on with our men.”

So Viagra moved into our consciousness. Practically every middle-aged patient in my practice called asking for prescriptions for Viagra. I learned about it form the media and my Pfizer pharmaceutical representative who came calling to my office with free samples of the new magical drug. It was odd, one day there was no conversation about impotence, the next, it was the hottest topic of conversation from Wall Street to the kids on Main Street.

Although I am very open-minded, I was hesitant to write the prescriptions. I had nothing against the quick fix Viagra promised men, but I was worried that the wrong man would take it and he would become mortally ill from it. My fear came from the understanding of how Viagra works. It increases the blood flow to the penis and the pelvic organs in general. It brings more blood to the penis and as a result, a harder erection. Great, exactly what we all want, but at what cost? If the man is older, has high blood pressure, or heart failure, Viagra, by diverting blood from the heart, lung and brain, will induce a rapid drop in blood pressure to the organs that need the blood flow the most. This increases the risk for potential strokes and heart attacks. I didn’t want to scare anyone but I discouraged older men who had atherosclerotic disease, from using it. Unfortunately the very reason for their problems with erections was because they had plaques (atherosclerosis) in the blood vessels supplying the penis to begin with. They were the men on medications for high blood pressure and cholesterol. They were also suffering from impotence, the most disturbing side-effect of anti-hypertensive medication. A catch-22 situation: the men who need the medication the most are at highest risk of getting complications from it.

Despite the dilemma of its side-effects, Viagra had opened a new door. Its sheer existence acknowledges fairly prominently that men experience significant and disturbing problems as they age. Men need help, too.

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