Since its initial release back in 1998, Viagra has become a household name. The little blue pill manufactured by Pfizer is world renowned for its ability to effectively treat erectile dysfunction.

But does Viagra treat any other medical conditions?

The short answer is: no. But some explanation is required.

Viagra can only be prescribed to treat cases of erectile dysfunction. Patients who receive a Viagra prescription should not make any adjustments to their dosage without first consulting their doctor.

Although Viagra cannot be prescribed to treat other medical conditions, Pfizer have received approval to market sildenafil under a different dosage and name: Revatio.

Revatio contains the same active ingredient as Viagra, but is instead used to treat pulmonary arterial hypertension (PAH).

Pulmonary arterial hypertension

The pulmonary arteries deliver blood to the lungs. These specific arteries can become thickened or blocked causing high blood pressure. This condition is known as pulmonary arterial hypertension.

Pulmonary hypertension symptoms include:

  • Breathlessness

  • Feeling dizzy

  • Fatigue

  • Lower limb swelling

  • Chest pain

  • Palpitations

An estimated 10 percent of PAH cases can be traced to an inherited genetic mutation. However, the condition can also be linked to other health problems (such as blood clots and heart disease) or have no known cause (idiopathic pulmonary arterial hypertension).

PAH causes the heart to work harder to pump blood to the lungs resulting in an increase in pressure. This serious yet fairly rare condition can develop at any age and if left untreated can lead to heart failure.

How does Revatio treat pulmonary arterial hypertension?

The active ingredient in Revatio is sildenafil which is classed as a phosphodiesterase type 5 inhibitor (PDE5i) or vasodilator.

The drug has been found to have a relaxing effect on the arteries that lead to the lungs. It improves the blood flow through them, thus decreasing the pressure and allowing for easier breathing.

Lifestyle and pulmonary arterial hypertension

PAH can seriously restrict an individual’s ability to lead a normal life. Difficulty breathing can impede on fundamental tasks such as walking upstairs or having a shower. The debilitating effects of the disease can make even light exercise a struggle.

When Revatio is used to treat PAH it has been found to improve exercise capacity. This may also be the case for other lung and heart conditions such as pulmonary fibrosis and right sided ventricular dysfunction. Although at the moment it is just used in PAH treatment.

Revatio is a branded drug which uses the active ingredient sildenafil but it should not be used to treat any other medical conditions.

Although Viagra and Revatio both contain sildenafil the two medications are not interchangeable and should only be used for their prescribed purpose.

Researched use in other conditions

As discussed above, sildenafil has no other licensed use than for erectile dysfunction. However, it has been tested by researchers for other conditions:

  • Altitude sickness

This illness occurs as a result of ascent to high altitudes where the body receives insufficient levels of oxygen to function normally. It can cause symptoms such as hyperventilation, nausea, sickness and exhaustion.

Several small studies have looked into the use of sildenafil as an effective treatment for altitude sickness. Initial results have shown some promise with the drug providing better results than a placebo. However, a definitive clinical conclusion is yet to be reached, therefore sildenafil is not currently licensed to treat altitude sickness.

If you plan on visiting an area of high altitude and have concerns about altitude sickness you should consult your doctor prior to travelling.

  • Premature ejaculation

Premature ejaculation is another common sexual disorder that affects men. Individuals diagnosed with the condition are unable to have penetrative sex for more than two minutes without ejaculating.

This condition can be extremely frustrating and put unnecessary pressure on the couple it affects.

Viagra and sildenafil have received some attention because of their potential ability to treat premature ejaculation.

Preliminary research appears positive, suggesting that sildenafil might improve the patient’s perception of ejaculatory control and feelings of sexual satisfaction.

However neither Viagra or sildenafil has been given the go ahead as a treatment for PE.

Priligy has been developed to specifically treat the condition, and is a much more suitable medication.

Therefore those who experience recurrent episodes of PE are encouraged to approach their doctor who can discuss the current treatment options.