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Did You Know?

ED Drugs

Men can take erectile dysfunction (ED) medications by mouth, by self-injection, or by using suppositories.

Oral Medications

Many oral medications, such as Viagra, Levitra, and Cialis, relax smooth muscles in the penis, allowing more blood flow when a man is sexually stimulated. This helps an erection occur.

Most men take their medication an hour before sex. Viagra and Levitra start working in about a half hour and their effects last for about 4 to 5 hours. Cialis generally works more quickly and can last up to 36 hours.


Some ED drugs (such as alprostadil) are injected directly into the penis with a small needle. The medicine widens blood vessels and triggers an erection within 15 minutes. The erection may last for up to two hours. A physician can teach a man and/or his partner how to prepare the medication and inject it properly.


Sometimes, the same medicines that are injected come in suppository form. A special applicator is used to inject a tiny pellet of medicine into the urethra. Once the pellet dissolves, it works much like the injected drug: blood vessels expand and an erection occurs fairly quickly. However, suppositories are usually not as effective as injections.

If you’re considering ED medications, talk to your doctor. It’s important to understand how the medicines work, how to use them, how often you can take them, and what side effects can occur. Also, ED drugs may interact with other medicines you’re taking, so be sure to discuss that, too.