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Harvard Medical School
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General Medical Questions
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Question : Does Viagra work for women who have sexual problems caused by an antidepressant?
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The Trusted Source
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Howard LeWine, M.D.

Michael Craig Miller, M.D Michael Craig Miller, M.D., is Senior Editor of Mental Health Publishing at Harvard Health Publications. He is an assistant professor of psychiatry at Harvard Medical School. Dr. Miller is in clinical practice at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center, where he has been on staff for more than 25 years.

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July 26, 2012
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A:

Drugs like sildenafil (Viagra) are very popular for treating sexual problems in men. The drug seems to work, whether the cause is psychological or physical.

So it’s no wonder that women are curious to try it. Especially women taking antidepressants. They are more likely than men to be treated for depression. And they are less likely to talk about sexual problems with their doctors.

Antidepressants often ruin sex for both men and women. Up to 70% of people taking these drugs report reduced sexual pleasure. A drug meant to improve life shouldn’t take away one of life’s main joys!

Sildenafil works by improving genital blood flow. Other drugs like it are tadalafil (Cialis), vardenafil (Levitra) and avanafil (STENDRA). Do these drugs help women taking antidepressants? The research is limited and the results are mixed.

Some women taking sildenafil have reported improved sexual functioning. This includes increased desire, arousal and lubrication. Some reported reaching orgasm easier.

But the effects of sildenafil may be weaker in women than in men. For men, achieving an erection enhances sex. For women, improved genital blood flow may not mean more pleasure. That is, a woman’s sexual response is not so directly linked to how their genitals work.

It is simple enough to try it. The standard dose is 50 to 100 mg. Take it an hour or two before sexual activity. The most common side effects are headaches and skin flushing. Stomach upset or heartburn can also happen.

People with heart disease might worry about taking a drug that changes blood flow. Sildenafil does not increase the risk of heart attacks or rhythm disturbances. But people who take nitrates for angina should not use the drug. That combination could cause a dangerous fall in blood pressure.

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