Older man with a headache

What’s the Best Way to Prevent Viagra Headache?

Highlights  

  • Viagra headaches can occur in up to 16 percent of users.
  • The best way to prevent Viagra headache is to lower the dose.
  • We don’t yet know how Viagra causes headaches, but researchers suspect there are several reasons.
  • You can prevent or treat your Viagra headache with over-the-counter pain relievers, compresses, and caffeine. 

The best way to prevent Viagra headache is to lower the dose. Doctors have known since 2000 that by taking less of the drug, users can decrease the intensity and frequency of its side effects.

You can also try drinking a lot of water to stay hydrated, taking over-the-counter pain relievers, taking your Viagra with food, or switching to another ED drug.  

Why Does Viagra Cause Headaches?

Although common wisdom says that Viagra’s side effects are rare, it seems that up to 16 percent of men taking the drug may encounter headaches or even migraines. If you are one of these unlucky men, improving your erections may take a heavy toll on your quality of life. 

Sildenafil citrate, the active compound in Viagra, is a phosphodiesterase type 5 (PDE 5) inhibitor. By inhibiting this compound, sildenafil boosts the action of nitric oxide (NO) while preventing the breakdown of cyclic guanosine monophosphate (cGMP). Together, these compounds dilate the blood vessels that feed blood to your penis, making your erections harder and your sex life better. 

Doctors cannot limit sildenafil’s action to your penis alone. The same effects occur elsewhere in your body, including your brain, where the increased blood flow may cause headaches. 

This is a simple explanation of the link between Viagra and headaches. The biochemical processes drugs trigger, however, are never simple. 

The problem with this theory is that sildenafil does not seem to have a significant effect on veins in the brain. Another study confirms that its vein-dilating effects are minor. 

Sildenafil’s Mechanism of Action is Anything but Simple

Sildenafil triggers a complex range of biochemical responses in the body. Although they don’t yet fully understand how sildenafil triggers headaches, researchers suspect that some of these responses may work in synergy to cause the unpleasant side effect. 

Here are some possible contenders:

  • Nitric oxide. NO itself may be a culprit in headaches. Glyceryl trinitrate and nitroglycerin are both NO precursors, meaning your body uses them to create NO. Both are known to cause headaches in migraine sufferers. Histamine, a compound that stimulates the formation of NO, also causes headaches. Doctors have worked out a nitric oxide hypothesis of migraine and headaches.
  • Nitric oxide inhibitors treat headaches. When doctors tried to treat headaches by inhibiting NO, they succeeded in 67 percent of patients. It seems the same rush of blood that makes your penis tick can also make your head ache when it reaches the brain.
  • Sildenafil increases sensitivity to NO. In addition to boosting the action of NO in the body, sildenafil also increases the sensitivity of the body to the compound. Thus, it adds another layer to its complex headache-promoting effects.
  • Sildenafil binds to ion channels. Ion channels are cell membranes that allow only certain compounds to pass through. They may help sildenafil achieve its ED-fighting effects. They may also play a role in headaches.
  • Sildenafil activates phosphokinases. Phosphokinases are enzymes that help with chemical changes in the body. Sildenafil alters them, unleashing a wide range of possibilities for erection-promoting and headache-provoking effects.
  • Sildenafil alters signaling in the central nervous system. Doctors have known since 1988 that NO plays a role in neural communication. 
Complex graph
We have yet to decipher sildenafil’s complex actions

For now, we can state that we don’t know for sure what causes Viagra headaches, but we know of many things that could cause them.

The Best Way to Prevent Viagra Headache

The intricacy of Viagra’s action means that the best way to prevent Viagra headache is to reduce your dose. Talk to your doctor about your side effects. Doctors can establish whether the benefits of taking the drug outweigh its risks in your case. 

They can also determine whether a lower dose is likely to help you achieve the erections you want. 

Alternative Ways to Treat Your Viagra Headache

If you are not ready to give up on Viagra and possibly your erections, you can explore alternative solutions to your headache problems. 

Taking Viagra with Food

Taking medication on an empty stomach hastens its absorption. If you take a drug after a light meal, you stage its absorption, retaining its benefits and dampening its side effects. 

Don’t take Viagra after a heavy meal as it may significantly delay the absorption of the drug, possibly leading you to believe that it doesn’t work. 

Keeping Hydrated

Dehydration promotes and may even cause headaches. Viagra headaches are more likely in people with a propensity for headaches and migraine; when dehydrated, you are more likely to get a headache from Viagra. 

Young man drinking water
Hydration is the answer to many of life’s problems

Drink plenty of water. Erectile dysfunction drugs like Viagra may cause you to release more water than usual. 

Taking a Pain Reliever

Over-the-counter pain relievers can help if you already have a Viagra headache. You may also want to try them as a preventive measure. Taking ibuprofen or acetaminophen along with your Viagra may prevent headaches. 

Trying a Different ED Drug

Your body may be overly sensitive to sildenafil and may tolerate another active compound better. Switching to Cialis or Levitra may help. Bear in mind that sildenafil, tadalafil, and vardenafil are all PDE5 inhibitors and work similarly. The main difference between them is in the duration of the effects. Longer-lasting effects come with longer-lasting side effects. 

Conversely, if you get headaches from another phosphodiesterase-5 inhibitor, you may want to give Viagra a try. Because everyone is different, it’s possible that it won’t be a problem for you.

Avoiding Intense Light

Though staying in a dimly lit room won’t prevent your Viagra headaches, it can reduce the discomfort and duration of the pain. Intense light excites the eyes and the brain. Keeping the light low may be especially beneficial to migraine sufferers. 

Hot or Cold Compresses

Sometimes, a Viagra headache can set in after the effects of the drug have worn off. In such cases, applying a hot or cold compress directly to the site of the pain may prove beneficial. 

Caffeine

Some people may find that drinking a caffeinated beverage reduces the intensity and duration of their headaches. A little caffeine may help some Viagra headache sufferers as well. 

Seeking Medical Attention

In rare cases, Viagra headaches may be so intense that they warrant medical attention. Talk to your doctor if: 

  • The pain seems unbearable.
  • You feel like you have the worst headache of your life.
  • The pain comes on suddenly.
  • Your headache won’t go away.
  • Slurred speech or balance problems accompany the pain. 

Your Viagra headache should subside after your body eliminates the drug. Viagra’s effects should wear off in 4-6 hours. Your headache may last longer as sildenafil levels in your blood drop gradually, and it may persist for some time after the effects subside. 

Some men may find that their bodies get used to Viagra over time. They may experience less intense and less frequent Viagra headaches as a result. 

Although there are several things you can try to prevent Viagra headaches, in most cases, the best way to prevent Viagra headache is to reduce your dose.

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