VIAGRA ∙ 3 minutes read

Can women take Viagra?

By Emily Cameron

Given the transformative benefits that taking Viagra can have on men’s sex lives, it’s not surprising that many women are curious to see if the little blue pill has the same effect on them.

In 1998, Viagra was approved as a treatment for erectile dysfunction (ED) by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), but there is still yet to be a widely-approved equivalent drug to treat low libido in women.

How does Viagra work in men?

Firstly, it’s important to understand how Viagra works in men. Sildenafil – the active ingredient in Viagra – works by inhibiting the action of the PDE5 enzyme. This indirectly allows the arteries to relax, increasing the blood flow around the body.

Contrary to popular belief, Viagra doesn’t give men an instant erection. Instead, it relaxes the blood vessels so that when a man is aroused, the blood flows to their penis, allowing them to get and maintain an erection.

Like any medication, Viagra can sometimes cause side effects. The most common side effect of taking Viagra is headache, affecting around 1 in 10 users. Other common side effects include nausea, facial flushing, a sudden feeling of being hot, indigestion and dizziness – although generally speaking, the benefits of men taking Viagra outweigh any side effects.

What does Viagra do for women?

Viagra has the same physiological effects in women as it does in men: a 2004 study showed that women who took Viagra experienced side effects such as mild to moderate headache, nausea, flushing and visual disturbances. However, there is no strong evidence to suggest that it improves their sexual response.

Is there an alternative out there for women?

Recent research suggests that a drug called flibanserin is effective in treating women with low sex drive, and is the first FDA approved non-hormonal treatment for hypoactive (low) sexual desire disorder in women.

Despite being nicknamed the “female Viagra”, flibanserin works in a very different way to Viagra. It aims to balance chemicals in the brain such as serotonin, norepinephrine and dopamine, which correlate to feelings of desire. Although it was approved by the FDA in the US in 2015, it is yet to be approved in the UK because it hasn’t undergone adequate testing yet.

The bottom line

Viagra is a generally safe and effective treatment for ED in men. However, it isn’t available (or recommended) for women as there is no strong evidence to suggest that it improves their sexual response.