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Viagra vs. Cialis: What’s the Difference?

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Viagra and Cialis both work for many men.

In the late 1990s, men finally had access to a life-changing medication. That’s when Viagra was born, or at least when it became available by prescription for men who experienced difficulties achieving and maintaining an erection. It was a great run for many years, with Viagra as essentially the only effective treatment known to work for a wide range of men.

New erection health treatments began to emerge in time, all with a similar approach as Viagra. Cialis is one of those, and it’s gained a strong reputation all its own for effective, and flexible, treatment options.

Choosing between Viagra and Cialis isn’t a matter of picking the best medication. It’s more about choosing the one that best suits your lifestyle. Consider how these two are similar, and how they differ, and then talk with your health care provider to help determine which medication is right for you.

Viagra and Cialis are Similar Medications

To understand how Viagra and Cialis differ, it helps to first understand the similarities that they share. Both medications are FDA-approved and safe for most men who experience erection health difficulties.

Both Viagra and Cialis are known as PDE5 inhibitors. This is a special class of drug that approaches erection health in a unique way. Phosphodiesterase type 5 inhibitors, which is the full name, block the degrading effect that phosphodiesterase has on cyclic GMP in the smooth cells in the penis.

Confused yet? It’s not as complicated as it sounds.

Cyclic GMP, or cGMP, causes the relaxation of smooth muscle cells. Relaxation might seem counterintuitive to a healthy erection, but this effect takes place in a specific area — the spongy tissue inside the penis.

The corpus cavernosa are two cylinder-shaped areas of the penis, one on the left and another on the right. Inside these cylinders is a spongy tissue and blood vessels. During arousal, the spongy tissue becomes engorged with blood. In a healthy erection, smooth muscle cells relax, which allows blood to flow freely into the penis. cGMP is responsible for the relaxation of those smooth muscle cells.

Phosphodiesterase, however, can interrupt or prevent cGMP from relaxing those smooth muscle cells. The result may be that the penis does not get an adequate supply of blood, and an erection doesn’t happen.

Phosphodiesterase or PDE5 inhibitors help allow cGMP to do its job, which is increasing the blood flow into the penis.

Both Viagra and Cialis are PDE5 inhibitors. They are very similar drugs with a similar chemical makeup. However, there are some differences.

Viagra lets you think about sex when you want to.

Viagra lets you think about sex when you want to.

Viagra Led the Way

Known as the “Little Blue Pill,” Viagra is one of the most recognizable medications available for helping men achieve and maintain an erection.

Viagra is an as-needed medication. It can be taken once a day by many men. However, if you take certain medications, such as protease inhibitors, your doctor may restrict your dosage to no more than one 25 mg tablet every 48 hours.

Available in doses ranging from 25 mg to 100 mg, some men may need a lower dose, and others may respond better to a higher level. Your doctor can help determine which dose is best for you. Many men begin with the lowest, and your doctor may increase the dose if necessary.

The Viagra website explains that this little blue pill begins working in about 30 minutes to an hour. It remains effective for approximately 4 hours. As with any medication, your results may vary.

Viagra doesn’t need to be planned around meals, but fatty foods can slow down its effectiveness. The medication will still take effect, but fatty foods take longer to digest, so the absorption of Viagra may also take longer to be absorbed.

Cialis Offers Certain Choices

Some men choose Cialis over Viagra because it can begin to work slightly faster. This medication also offers a few different dosage options from which you can choose.

Daily-use Cialis is for men who want a steady amount of the medication in their system at all times, as explained at the Cialis website. This helps avoid planning sexual activity around the medication, and vice versa.

With daily medication, there are two dosage options, 2.5 mg and 5 mg. Your doctor may prefer to start you out on the lowest dose possible, and then step up to a higher dose later if necessary. The 2.5 mg option is considered “low-dose,” and is all that many men need.

For men who prefer to take medication only when it’s needed, 36-hour Cialis might be a better choice than daily-use. This medication is taken only as needed, but you don’t have to worry about taking it immediately before.

There are three dosage levels for 36-hour Cialis. It comes in 5 mg, 10 mg, and 20 mg tablets.

The 36-hour Cialis option may begin to work as quickly as 30 minutes in some men. But it also stays effective for up to 36 hours, so you can think about it ahead of time if you like.

One important fact to remember about this “on-demand” version is that you should not take more than once dose per day. Because it stays effective much longer than a day, this shouldn’t be an issue.

Neither daily-use nor 36-hour Cialis should be taken with any other medication for erection health, including nutrition supplements.

mature man relaxing on park bench.

PDE5 inhibitors are safe for many, but not all, men.

Health Considerations for Either Medication

Although Viagra and Cialis are both determined safe for many men with erection difficulties, there are some things you should know. Foremost is that men who take nitrates for chest pain should not take either erection health medication. In fact, no PDE5 inhibitor is considered safe for men who take nitrates.

The result could be a dangerous drop in blood pressure. So always tell your doctor if you take nitrates.

Both Viagra and Cialis may work for men with different reasons behind erection difficulties. Some men have blood vessel and nerve damage from diabetes. Some have buildup in the lining of blood vessels, which impairs proper blood flow to the penis. There are many reasons why erection health can suffer, but PDE5 inhibitors can often work around those problems and help facilitate an erection.

A rare but dangerous risk with Viagra and Cialis is a condition called priapism. You’ve heard the commercials explaining that if you experience an erection that lasts more than 4 hours, seek medical attention right away.

After sexual activity or when sexual stimulation stops, the penis should return to its natural state. Blood that flowed in and became temporarily trapped should be released again. When blood doesn’t flow back out of the penis normally, the penis is deprived of oxygenated blood, and permanent tissue damage can occur. This is priapism, which can be a painful condition, and one that affects your ability to achieve an erection in the future.

Viagra and Cialis are FDA-approved medications that have helped many men overcome erection difficulties, and start enjoying a healthy sex life again. There are some differences between the two, but those primarily deal with convenience.

If you don’t want to think about your erection medication every day and like the option of a wide range of dosage strengths, the original “Little Blue Pill” may be just what you’re looking for. If you prefer a medication that goes to work fast and stays effective for more than 24 hours, Cialis may have an option that suits your needs.

Neither medication is better than the other. It’s all about choices. Talk with your doctor, and see which is right for you.

eDrugstore.com sells Viagra and Cialis, both of which have been proven effective in treating erection health issues in many men. We offer privacy and convenience, and your discreetly-packed shipment arrives right at your door. If you’re ready to try something that works, see what eDrugstore.com has to offer.

Don Amerman has spent more than three decades in the business of writing and editing. During the last 15 years, his focus has been on freelance writing. For almost all of his writing, He has done all of his own research, both online and off, including telephone and face-to-face interviews where possible. Don Amerman on Google+