Impotence among men shows up as difficulties in realizing and maintaining an erect penis during sexual intercourse. It is considered as a common disorder. The odds of a man having this condition are likely to increase as he ages. Viagra is used as a drug to treat male impotence. There are a few other options available through OTC that can work like Viagra. What are they? Read on for more details.

A man attains erection when additional blood flows into the penile area. This enhanced flow of blood is triggered either by physical touch of the penis or when you think about sexual activity. There are two slots in the penile region that get filled up with blood. As the slots get filled, an erection of your penis ensues. In order to have a satisfactory sexual experience, adequate blood needs to flow into the slots to keep your penis erect and hard.

Erection of your penis can thus be summed up to occur as a result of arteries bringing added quantum of blood into your penis. On the other hand, discharge of blood from these two slots lead to shrinking of penile muscles. This shrinkage also marks the end of your erection.

What causes male impotence?

In general, erectile dysfunction is thought to be caused as men age. But, age is a very simplistic answer to what causes ED. Along with age, men do become vulnerable to several medical conditions as well as emotional situations. A fairly comprehensive list of medical triggers includes diabetes, increase in blood pressure, cardiac disorders, drop in production of male sex hormones (such as testosterone), renal disorders, overweight, etc. Emotional factors include increased levels of stress, mental problems such as depression and mood swings. Other lifestyle related habits may also trigger erectile dysfunction; these include insomnia or other sleep related problems, smoking, excessive intake of alcohol, etc.

Aging along with incidence of a few mental disorders such as Parkinson’s disease can also cause male impotence. In a few stray instances, injuries in the pelvic areas as well as tissue development in penile region have also caused impotence among men.
Male impotence is a medical condition which is often treated through a combination of approaches. The most common approaches include administration of drugs, talking to a therapist, use of vacuum pumps, surgery (vascular or implant-based procedures), etc. Drugs commonly taken ensure to send more blood to your penile area. The most common drugs are Viagra (sildenafil), Cialis (tadalafil), Levitra (vardenafil), Stendra (avanafil), etc.

What does Viagra do?

Viagra forms part of a family of drugs called phosphodiesterase type-5 (PDE-5) inhibiting medications. PDE-5 naturally controls the dilation of blood vessels; the enzyme mainly makes vessels to shrink in radius. Viagra stops this enzyme from breaking down and thus makes the blood vessels – especially in the penile area – to remain dilated or expanded for long. So, more amount of blood gains access into your penis through these expanded blood vessels. As most people think, Viagra is not a magical pill or a wonder drug. It does not boost sexual desire in men. Instead, the drug helps maintain an erect penis when a male is sexually primed.

It takes about 45 minutes for the drug to start working on you. It only means that you may need to pop a pill at least an hour before a sexual intercourse. Erection brought forth by Viagra may last upto three to four hours. It may take upto seven hours for your body to be completely rid of it. The common side effects of intake of Viagra include blurring of eyesight, backache, headache, indigestion, soreness of throat, etc.

Priapism is another side effect of taking Viagra; it is a condition wherein the erection does not go away. In fact, there are a few extreme cases of an erection lasting for more than five hours; these instances may lead to eventual damage of your penile muscles and blood vessels in the region.

OTC pills that work like Viagra

Before looking at OTC options to treat Erectile Dysfunction, it is important to understand if the drugs taken are safe. Of the many options available to treat ED through OTC drugs, a few important treatments stand out from the rest. These are –

#1. L-arginine

This is a standard supplement to boost men’s wellbeing. It is essentially an amino acid. It is broken down into nitric oxide. This chemical helps widen your blood vessels, and also paves way for additional supply of blood. As a part of treatments offered for ED, this drug is often blended with yohimbine or glutamate. In some instances, it has been combined with an extract called as pycnogenol. You may however need to take this OTC medication with proper care. This is because it can lower your blood pressure significantly. It is also known to distort your blood sugar readings. Hence, for those with diabetes, this OTC drug is not recommended. As an added risk, L-arginine may react with a few other medications; such drug interactions can cause internal bleeding.

#2. Dehydroepiandrosterone (DHEA)

It is a hormonal substance which has a direct link with the making of sexual hormones. Some men may naturally have lesser amounts of DHEA. On the other hand, once men cross 30 years of age- their body may inherently start making lesser amounts of this hormone. This substance may cause a few adverse effects in men; these include insomnia or sleep apnea, skin related problems such as acne, decrease in the size of your testes, needless aggressive behavior, softening of men’s breasts, uncontrollable urges to urinate, etc. On top of it all, this hormone’s ability to treat erectile dysfunction is not fully established yet.

3. Yohimbe

This is a derivative from an African tree. The bark of this tree is considered as a treatment for male impotence. The key substance present in this drug is called Yohimbine. Scientific evidences are not fully documented about the efficacy of this substance to treat erectile dysfunction. Yohimbe can trigger a few harmful effects such as stress, irregular or faster heartbeat, etc. It is also known to increase your blood pressure. It is found to boost the making of a substance called norepinephrine – which is a neurotransmitter produced in your brain, which is linked to boosting an erection. As an added benefit, Yohimbe is also known to have an impact on ejaculation as well as orgasms.

#4. Propionyl-L-carnitine

This is a natural amino acid made in your body. It is used to treat problems associated with your circulatory system; especially flow of blood. This makes it as one of the treatments for erectile dysfunction. Through various trials, it has been observed that L-carnitine can boost the performance of standard ED medications such as Viagra.

#5. Ginseng

This is a widely known and very popular remedy. This is made available as a cream as well as a pill. Gensing is known for its ability to enhance your sexual health as well as improve your fertility level. It is a naturally found aphrodisiac. A few medical studies have found ginseng to cause marked progress in sexual performances, increase in libido, better orgasms, etc. However, the herbal drug can trigger a few side effects; these are sleeplessness and internal bleeding. Hence, it is not considered very safe for those who have autoimmune disorders, and cardiac dysfunction.

Ginseng is also known to interact with a few other drugs. Hence, it is required to check with your doctor prior to the intake of this herbal drug. Other adverse reactions associated with its intake are headache, indigestion as well as dizziness.

These OTC drugs are branded as dietary supplements and are deemed as natural; however, you may need to take all possible precautions as they may contain a few potentially harmful substances. In the absence of well-documented scientific evidence on these dietary supplements, it is always recommended to take these drugs only after consulting with your treating doctor.

Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has a list of more than 200 substances; all of them claiming to have a cure for erectile dysfunction. But, FDA has not submitted the outcomes and side effects of each of them. Hence, the presence of toxic substances with potentially dangerous properties in them cannot be ruled out.

In general, buyers are advised to be wary of OTC medications sold under the pretext of treating sexual malfunction. It is required to look for FDA label (proof of being regulated or tested by this nodal agency) prior to buying these OTC products. One risk is the presence of harmful substances, and the other greater risk is the likely interactions with other medications you may current be taking. It is a good practice to talk to your physician about intake of these OTC drugs; even if these drugs carry labels such as “plant-based”, “natural”, “contains no additives”, etc.

OTC drugs for treating erectile dysfunction are a debated topic among medical communities. FDA has openly issued caution about the dangers associated with such OTC products. Nearly 30 such OTC items have been added to the “to be avoided” list, owing to their adverse side effects. It is advised to take medical help before taking any of these OTC products that are sold as a cure for ED or sexual potency. Better still, look for labels issued either by the National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health (NCCIH) or the FDA; tests done at these agencies are trustworthy and are reliable.

In sum, OTC products sold for treating ED may have momentary relief, but they may be laden with more risks. These risks are often not known and may show up over a period of time or through repeated use. These untested OTC products may also interact with other drugs you may take and may lead to more dangerous medical conditions.

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