How Does ED Medication Work: Everything Men Need to Know

ED medication is a treatment that's been effective for most men suffering from erectile dysfunction. But how does ED medication work? Find out here.

Brian Clark BSN, MSNA
By The Promescent Team Medically reviewed by Brian Clark BSN, MSNA Last updated 12/11/2023

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Erectile dysfunction (ED) is a widespread condition, but modern ED medications can help many men to safely and quickly overcome it.

With commonly prescribed pills like Viagra and Cialis, men have multiple options that can help to cure ED.

Quick FAQs

ED pills block the PDE5 enzymes within the blood vessel walls. This relaxes the blood vessels in the body, allowing more blood into the penis, and allowing erections to happen.

The amount of time it takes ED pills to work varies. Depending on the medication, it can take anywhere from 15 minutes to an hour to work.

ED meds can last anywhere from three to 36 hours depending on the medication.

In this guide, we'll look at how these types of ED pills work. We’ll also share tips on how you can get the most out of them while reducing the risk of side effects.

How Do ED Pills Work?

In the US, the most common ED pills include:

  • Tadalafil (Cialis)
  • Sildenafil (Viagra)
  • Avanafil (Stendra)
  • Vardenafil (Levitra)

All of these medications are FDA approved, and have been deemed safe and effective for treating ED in most men.

Brian Clark, founder of United Medical Education, stated “Erectile dysfunction medications, such as Viagra (sildenafil), Cialis (tadalafil), and Levitra (vardenafil), work by increasing blood flow to the penis.

Pro Tip: VitaFLUX Nitric Oxide Booster helps the body increase nitric oxide production which can relax blood vessels and allow more blood flow to circulate.

Clark further explained, “They belong to a class of drugs called phosphodiesterase type 5 (PDE5) inhibitors. These medications inhibit the enzyme PDE5, which helps relax the smooth muscles in the blood vessels of the penis, allowing more blood to flow in and thus facilitating an erection.”

Impaired circulation is often a strong indicator of erectile dysfunction. Some of the most common causes of ED include:

  • High blood pressure
  • Heart disease
  • Diabetes
  • Peyronie’s disease

However, there are also other potential causes including:

  • Physical inactivity
  • Anxiety
  • Depression
  • Smoking

Since most of the approved ED pills require a prescription, a doctor will find the best course of treatment based on a patient’s symptoms and overall health status.

How Long Do ED Pills Take to Work?

On average, ED pills will take about an hour or less to work. Some pills may work within 15 minutes, while others may take 30 minutes or more before they provide increased blood flow towards the penis.

In the case of Tadalafil (Cialis,) some men may be given a daily prescription to allow for more spontaneous and frequent erections. In singular doses, Tadalafil will take about 30-45 minutes to begin working.

  • Sildenafil (Viagra) works in about 30-60 minutes.
  • Vardenafil (Levitra) works in roughly 30-60 minutes as well.
  • Avanafil (Stendra) works the fastest in an average of 15-30 minutes.

It’s important to note that ED meds will not always provide instant erections, but rather make it easier to attain an erection when sexually aroused.

Clark also mentions that while generally these medications will work within 30-60 minutes of ingestion, it can vary. Individual factors such as metabolism, the specific medication, and whether it’s taken with or without food can determine how long ED meds take to work.

If you’re having difficulties with both arousal and erectile dysfunction, supplements like VitaFLUX Nitric Oxide Booster might be a suitable alternative. It can aid in increasing libido and improving erectile functioning to help improve your overall sexual health.

How Long Do ED Meds Last?

Each of the major erectile dysfunction pills has a different duration of effectiveness. It’s important to remember that everyone will have a different experience with the medication.

In some cases, a pill may last for five hours for a person on one day, but it may only be effective for three hours on the next day.

Different factors, such as taking the medicine on an empty stomach or with food, may cause the medicine to last longer or shorter.

However, here’s what Clark noted was the duration of action for some of the popular ED meds:

  • Sildenafil is effective for 4-5 hours
  • Vardenafil is effective for around 4-6 hours
  • Tadalafil is effective for up to 36 hours

Tadalafil (Cialis) is one of the longer lasting ED pills on the market. Its duration makes it a great choice for those who want more spontaneity regarding their erections.

However, for those who are more sensitive to a medication’s side effects, a shorter duration may be more beneficial. Clark also mentioned that duraction can vary based on the dosage amount and an individual’s metabolism.

How Quickly Do ED Pills Work?

In most cases, all of the ED pills mentioned in this guide should begin working during the first day they’re taken.

However, everyone responds differently to different medications. There may be some instances where it takes time to notice positive effects.

Here are some of the most common reasons why ED medications may not work immediately.

A Lack of Arousal

ED medications won’t cause arousal, but they will make getting an erection easier when one is aroused.

What this means is that if men are not in the mood, or are stressed about their performance due to ED, they may not become sufficiently aroused to achieve an erection even while on medication.

Stress or Anxiety

Anxiety around ED can become a self-fulfilling prophecy. It’s important for men to relax and try to avoid thinking about erectile dysfunction during sex to avoid getting anxious.

Staying properly relaxed and getting in the mood gives the medication a better chance at working.

Needing a Different Dosage (With a Doctor’s Approval)

In some cases, a larger dosage of the medication prescribed may be needed to achieve the best effects. If the prescribed medication isn’t providing results, talk to your doctor to see if a larger dosage is needed.

Side Effects of Erectile Dysfunction Medication

Despite being safe and effective for most men, all ED medicines have some risks that users should be aware of.

According to Clark, some of the common side effects of ED pills include:

  • Headaches
  • Upset stomach
  • Flushing (usually on the face)
  • Stuffy or runny nose
  • Indigestion
  • Dizziness
  • Back or muscle pain

Some rarer and potentially serious side effects that men should let their doctor know about immediately, include:

  • Changes in blood pressure
  • Blurry vision or other vision changes
  • Increased heart rate
  • Persistent migraine

In very rare cases, ED meds may cause a priapism, which is when blood is trapped in the penis causing an erection to last four or more hours.

If you have an erection that won’t go away, even if it’s for fewer than four hours, it’s important to call 911 or head to the emergency room immediately. 

An untreated priapism can lead to very serious consequences, including amputation or even death. However, it can generally be treated easily when caught early.

It’s important to talk with a doctor when experiencing any unwanted effects while taking ED medication

Sometimes, a simple change in dosage may be enough to limit these effects. Other times, switching to a similar medication can remove the side effects while still getting the best outcome for ED.

Clark advises users to read the instructions on the medication and consult with a doctor to get a full list of potential side effects.

What Causes ED Meds to Not Work?

Clark states that, “There are several factors that can contribute to erectile dysfunction medications not working effectively. These may include insufficient sexual stimulation, incorrect dosage, improper timing of medication intake, excessive alcohol consumption, underlying health conditions like diabetes or cardiovascular disease, and medication interactions.”

Clark also added, “If ED meds are not producing the desired results, it’s advisable to consult a healthcare professional to explore potential causes and alternative treatment options.”


Erectile dysfunction medications are highly effective and safe for most men. Since they require a prescription, a doctor will work with a patient to find a solution that gives the best chance at curing ED.

If ED medications aren’t effective, men can consider other alternatives such as VitaFLUX to help improve ED.

Taking care of one’s sexual health is important as it can help to boost one’s overall mental and physical health.

Start improving your sexual health today to regain confidence and enjoy the sex life you desire today.

Brian Clark BSN, MSNA

Brian Clark BSN, MSNA

With years of experience in the healthcare industry, I have leveraged my expertise to develop innovative approaches to medical education, business development, and marketing that have helped countless individuals and organizations achieve their goals. As the founder of United Medical Education, I have been committed to delivering high-quality, online medical education that is accessible to learners from all over the world. Through my leadership, United Medical Education has become a trusted source of continuing education for healthcare professionals, offering a wide range of courses that cover topics such as ACLS, PALS, and BLS.


Absorption Pharmaceuticals LLC (Promescent) has strict informational citing guidelines and relies on peer-reviewed studies, academic or research institutions, medical associations, and medical experts. We attempt to use primary sources and refrain from using tertiary references and only citing trustworthy sources. Each article is reviewed, written, and updated by Medical Professionals or authoritative Experts in a specific, related field of practice. You can find out more about how we ensure our content is accurate and current by reading our editorial policy.

  • Sooriyamoorthy T, Leslie SW. Erectile Dysfunction. [Updated 2022 Nov 28]. In: StatPearls [Internet]. Treasure Island (FL): StatPearls Publishing; 2023 Jan-. Available from: Accessed on Apr, 3, 2023.
  • Dhaliwal A, Gupta M. PDE5 Inhibitors. [Updated 2022 May 20]. In: StatPearls [Internet]. Treasure Island (FL): StatPearls Publishing; 2023 Jan-. Available from: Accessed on Apr, 3, 2023.
  • Ma M, Yu B, Qin F, Yuan J. Current approaches to the diagnosis of vascular erectile dysfunction. Transl Androl Urol. 2020 Apr;9(2):709-721. doi: 10.21037/tau.2020.03.10. PMID: 32420178; PMCID: PMC7215019. Accessed on Apr, 3, 2023.
  • "Symptoms & Causes of Erectile Dysfunction - National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases.", 2017, Accessed on Apr, 3, 2023.
  • "Which drug for erectile dysfunction? - Harvard Health Publishing.", 2022, Accessed on Apr, 3, 2023.
  • "ACLS, PALS, & BLS Certification Online - United Medical Education.", 2023, Accessed on Jul, 10, 2023.
The Content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.

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