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Danger below: understanding the risk of over-the-counter male sexual enhancement drugs

For many men and women, issues with sexual function are difficult to discuss with their doctor. At a time when the first step should be to make an appointment and speak up, many men opt for the easier route and head to the drug store for what seems like a safe alternative—male enhancement drugs.  Often marketed with an “herbal” or “nutritional supplement” image, these drugs advertise longer, stronger erections and more satisfying orgasms, but to the unsuspecting buyer, they can have some dangerous side effects.  Here’s what you need to know to protect your health and still enjoy your sex life.

See your doctor. If you are struggling with getting or maintaining an erection, you may have a physical condition that is keeping your body from responding as it normally would.  Heart disease and diabetes are two common causes of erectile dysfunction. Make sure to talk openly with your doctor before considering any over-the-counter treatments.

Serious side effects from over-the-counter male enhancement drugs include:

  • Damage to the urethra (tube that lets out urine and semen)
  • Permanent difficulty maintaining an erection
  • Permanent problems with urination
  • Penis “fractures” (a rupture of the tissue in the penis) causing bleeding and  requiring surgery
  • Dangerous drops in blood pressure

Some over-the-counter treatments may even contain ingredients similar to that of prescription drugs like  Viagra or Cialis and can trigger a dangerous drop in blood pressure in men who take medication for high blood pressure, high cholesterol, and a few other drugs. Never assume that these products will mix safely with your prescriptions.

Male enhancement drugs are not always regulated by agencies like the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), and may not be subject to the same quality testing as medications you get from your doctor. For this reason, you cannot just read the box and trust what’s inside.


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This information is intended for educational and informational purposes only. It should not be used in place of an individual consultation or examination or replace the advice of your health care professional and should not be relied upon to determine diagnosis or course of treatment.