How Long Can Viagra Last? What to Expect

By Sarah Malka, MD
Medically reviewed
November 11, 2021

Viagra (Sildenafil) is the first-line medication offered by many doctors for the treatment of erectile dysfunction (ED).

Because it’s been on the market longer than any other ED pill, its side effects and drug interactions are well known.

That means that, for most men, Viagra is a safe and effective treatment option for ED. 

Still, when weighing their options, many men may want to know how long the effects of Viagra last compared to other erectile dysfunction medications.

After all, you want to be ready when the mood strikes.

In this article, I’ll explain how Viagra works, how long it lasts in your system, its risk factors and side effects, and when to see a doctor to discuss treatment options for ED.

This way you can enjoy an active, healthy sex life.

Get an erectile dysfunction prescriptions for as low as $0.90 per dose.

Get Started

How Viagra (Sildenafil) Works

Viagra is a brand-name prescription drug that contains the active ingredient sildenafil citrate.

Viagra is called a PDE5 inhibitor because it prevents the enzyme phosphodiesterase-5 (PDE5) from breaking down a molecule called cyclic guanosine monophosphate (cGMP).

cGMP helps relax the penile muscles and the blood vessels that go into the penis, which works to improve penile blood flow.

All of that can help men get and maintain better erections

How Long Viagra Lasts in Your System

Viagra is designed to be taken shortly before sexual activity. It can take anywhere from 30 minutes to an hour to take effect and stays in your system for 4-5 hours, according to standard guidelines.

Viagra can help you become erect anytime during that window.

However, some research suggests that it may be able to stay in your system for longer than five hours.

In one small study, some men taking Viagra were able to have strong enough erections to have sexual intercourse 10 hours after ingesting the medication. 

Keep in mind, the amount of time that Viagra lasts depends on several individual factors, including weight, age, metabolism, when you last ate, other medications, and other health factors.

It’s also important to note that Viagra alone will not give you an erection: You must also be sexually aroused for the medication to work properly.

Can you make Viagra last longer?

While there’s no guaranteed way to make Viagra last longer, there are some things you can do to encourage the best results when taking the medication:

  • Follow the instructions: Take the recommended dose as directed by your doctor and/or pharmacist.
  • Be mindful of meals: Though Viagra should work regardless of whether or not you take it with food, it may take effect sooner when taken on an empty stomach. High-fat meals in particular may slow Viagra’s effects.
  • Relax: Stress and anxiety can affect your ability to get and maintain an erection. Doing what you can to relax your mind and body may help the medication work best.
  • Avoid alcohol: Excessive alcohol use can decrease your ability to get an effective erection, even with medication.

Regardless of your dose or individual metabolism rate, Viagra usually wears off after 4-6 hours.

Note that your erection should never last more than four hours. If it does, seek medical treatment.

You are at risk of developing priapism, a prolonged erection that can permanently damage your penis if you do not see a healthcare professional right away.

And if you’ve followed the recommended instructions but Viagra still isn’t working, reach out to your provider to determine if another medication or a higher dose may work better for you.

Potential Risk Factors of Viagra

For many men, Viagra is a safe treatment for ED.

But as with any medication, there are some risks.

Viagra can cause mild to moderate side effects, even when taken as directed.

These common side effects include: 

In some cases, Viagra can cause health complications in people with pre-existing conditions and interact poorly with some medications.

Before taking Viagra, talk to your doctor or healthcare provider about your health history and any prescription medications, supplements, or over-the-counter (OTC) medications you may be taking.

Specifically, Viagra may not be right for you if you:

  • Take alpha blockers or nitrates to treat hypertension or chest pain
  • Have a heart condition (unless otherwise cleared by your cardiologist)
  • Have low blood pressure, high blood pressure, irregular heartbeats, or have had heart attacks or strokes in the past
  • Take a nitroglycerin-based medication for angina or coronary heart disease

Get an erectile dysfunction prescriptions for as low as $0.90 per dose.

Get Started

When to See a Doctor

ED can take a toll on your relationships and quality of life.

Luckily, there are safe and effective treatment options. If you’re experiencing symptoms of ED at any age, see your healthcare provider to determine whether Viagra or another medication may help.

If you take Viagra a few times and don’t see a change or experience unwanted side effects, contact your doctor to determine the best course of action.

How K Health Can Help

Did you know you can get affordable primary care with the K Health app?

Download K to check your symptoms, explore conditions and treatments, and if needed text with a doctor in minutes. K Health’s AI-powered app is HIPAA compliant and based on 20 years of clinical data.

Frequently Asked Questions

Can Viagra keep you hard after ejaculating?
No. When taking Viagra, your erection should go away after ejaculating.
When is the optimal time to take Viagra before sex?
It usually takes 30 to 60 minutes for Viagra to take effect, so it’s best to take it in that window. However, you can take Viagra up to four hours before having sex.
Can Viagra make you bigger?
No, Viagra will not enlarge your penis.
K Health articles are all written and reviewed by MDs, PhDs, NPs, or PharmDs and are for informational purposes only. This information does not constitute and should not be relied on for professional medical advice. Always talk to your doctor about the risks and benefits of any treatment.

K Health has strict sourcing guidelines and relies on peer-reviewed studies, academic research institutions, and medical associations. We avoid using tertiary references.

Sarah Malka, MD

Dr. Sarah Malka is a board certified emergency medicine physician with K Health. She completed her residency at Harvard Medical School.