What happens if a woman takes Viagra? Benefits and risks

Sexual dysfunction in women is multicausal and Viagra ® could only solve part of it. Here we show you how it works, its benefits and risks.

Last update: April 13, 2022

When a woman takes Viagra ® the same effect is not produced as in a man. But why are there differences in the treatment of sexual dysfunction between the different sexes?

Viagra ®, which is the commercial name of the compound sildenafil, is prescribed for men in case of erectile dysfunction. When a woman takes it, it is usually for self-medication or because it has been prescribed for off-label use (off labelaccording to the English expression).

However, Viagra ® is not indicated or approved for use in women by the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA).

How does Viagra work?

Viagra ® is a blue colored pill prescribed to treat erectile dysfunction. It can be taken from 30 minutes to 4 hours before sexual intercourse and its effect lasts for 4 to 8 hours.

Its mechanism of action is by blocking an enzyme called phosphodiesterase. This leads to smooth muscle relaxation, with increased blood flow and decreased blood pressure.

At the level of the penis, relaxation of the smooth muscles of the cavernous body occurs, with greater blood flow, which maintains the erection. It is estimated that it works in a similar way in men and women, but its effect is less on them.

Viagra ® in women

When a woman takes Viagra ® there is increased blood flow to the genitals, especially the clitoris and vaginal lips. This leads to increased sensitivity, which can help with sexual arousal and reaching orgasm. Especially in postmenopausal women with vaginal dryness.

However, increased blood flow does not necessarily equate to increased enjoyment or desire. So in studies, the use of Viagra ® in women has not shown consistent benefits.

A special situation has been shown with women who take medication to treat depression. These patients, who consume serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SRIs) or serotonin and norepinephrine reuptake inhibitors (SNRIs), may have sexual dysfunction as an adverse effect. In them, Viagra ® improves sexual arousal and decreases the latency time of orgasm.

Postmenopausal women taking antidepressants may benefit from the effects of sildenafil. But always under professional prescription.

Sexual dysfunction in women is very complex

In women, sexual dysfunction can be due to problems in the ability to enjoy sex, low libido, problems at the moment of arousal or at the point of reaching orgasm. Also due to the presence of pain during sex (dyspareunia).

Low sexual desire can be due to a hormonal, physical or psychological origin. In the first place, organic causes must be ruled out, such as drug use or menopause.

There are many factors that influence and Viagra ® does not really improve all of them. It is different to talk about libido and arousal.

A woman, when taking Viagra ®, you may benefit if your problem lies in sexual arousalbut you won’t find help with low libido issues or other psychology-related disorders.



Are there risks when a woman takes Viagra?

Viagra ® has adverse effects which, in women, are associated with low blood pressure, headache, facial flushing, nasal congestion, nausea and visual disturbances.

The greatest risk of taking Viagra ® is that it can cause a sudden drop in blood pressure. Therefore, it should not be mixed with antihypertensive medications or recreational drugs.

Nevertheless, it is considered safe for use in men. In women, its long-term effect has not been demonstrated.

What alternatives do women with sexual dysfunction have?

There is not exactly a Viagra ® for women. However, there are several medications approved by the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA).

One of them is the Addyi ® (flibanserin), which indicated in women before menopause. It is considered the female Viagra ®, since it is a pink pill that increases sexual desire in women and whose best-known side effect is decreased appetite. It should be taken every day.

Flibanserin is prescribed to women diagnosed with inhibited sexual desire syndrome (or hypoactive sexual desire disorder). According to the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, it is the decrease or absence of fantasies and desires for sexual activity in a persistent and recurrent way.

Addyi ® acts on neurotransmitters, activating dopamine and regulating the excessive accumulation of serotonin. In this way, it directly affects libido.

Another drug called Vylessi ® (bremelanotide), modifying brain chemistry. This must be injected 45 minutes before having sex and a dose can be used every 24 hours; no more than 8 doses in a month. Its most common side effects are headaches, facial flushing, and injection site reactions.

On the other hand, Tibolone is a drug used for menopausal hormone therapy. It has a libido-enhancing effect and facilitates vaginal lubrication.

Some drugs have been approved for women with sexual dysfunction, although not sildenafil.


If a woman takes Viagra, she doesn’t really benefit

Viagra ® only has the physical effects of increasing blood flow. That helps erectile dysfunction in men.

In the case of women, it could be helpful when the problem is associated with difficulties in sexual arousal, but there is not enough scientific evidence of its long-term effect. In addition, in most cases, sexual dysfunction in women is associated with decreased sexual desire, on which Viagra ® has no effect.

Sildenafil is only indicated for the treatment of male erectile dysfunction.

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