The medication Sildenafil, primarily recognized as the brand Viagra, is a prescription medication for men who are unable to obtain or maintain an erection.
In most cases, men will approach their healthcare provider with the issue and complain that they either cannot get an erection at any time, can only get an erection some of the time, or can get an erection. Still, it doesn’t last long enough for sexual intercourse (1).
While Sildenafil can help men, who suffer from intermittent or chronic erectile dysfunction, there is a misconception that Viagra makes men horny, hence why it helps.
This is not the case, as Viagra does not make you horny, and it does not impact how horny you can become. Instead, Viagra’s primary purpose is to increase the amount of blood flow that a man receives to his penis, resulting in a harder and more prolonged erection (2).
Why Doesn’t Viagra Make You Horny & What Does It Actually Do?
While Viagra doesn’t make you horny, it is an easy misconception that many men may fall into. This is because we know that sexual arousal will cause a physiological response, such as an erection in men being the most obvious, and swelling in the nipples or clitoris in women (3).
As such, we link an erection with sexual arousal and vice versa, which may extend to why many believe that Viagra has an impact on sexual desire.
While these two states do go hand-in-hand with one another, meaning you need one to get the other, Viagra doesn’t help your body produce the chemical needed to make you aroused and, thus, get an erection.
All Viagra does is make it easier for your body to obtain an erection when you are sexually stimulated (2). To understand how this works, we must first briefly understand how the brain and penis interact with one another during sexual stimulation.
What Is Required to Get an Erection?
The majority of the time, a man’s penis is in a flaccid state, where the smooth muscles of the outer walls of the penis (arteriolar and arterial) are contracted. This allows only the necessary amount of blood flow through for nutritional purposes.
When a man experiences sexual stimulation, the brain releases nitric oxide, a neurotransmitter (5), to the outer tubes that run down the penis’ length. The nitric oxide relaxes your blood vessels so that your penis can take on more blood.
As more blood flows into the penis, your blood vessels expand, and the resulting pressure traps the blood as it decreases venous outflow. With more blood now in your penis, the increase in oxygen within the area (via PO2) helps raise the penis from its dependent state to an erect state (6).
How Does Viagra Aid in an Erection?
To help you obtain an erection, Viagra inhibits the release of Phosphodiesterase Type 5 (PDE5), which is an enzyme that breaks down the guanosine monophosphate (CGMP) cycle that results in the release of nitric oxide (7).
When this enzyme is blocked, nitric oxide will accumulate and stay in the penis longer, widening the blood vessels and allowing for greater relaxation (8). This is what gives men prolonged erection while taking Viagra.
So, while Viagra does not make you horny specifically, as long as you can get sexually aroused, the medication will result in a more pleasurable and longer-lasting sexual experience for you. Sildenafil takes about 30-60 minutes to work and can last up to 4 hours in length (2).