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What if a woman takes Viagra?

        Science | What If

If you're a woman experiencing sexual difficulties, you should consult a doctor instead of popping the little blue pill.
If you're a woman experiencing sexual difficulties, you should consult a doctor instead of popping the little blue pill.
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This question sounds like the opening for yet another joke about one of the most well-known and joked-about drugs in the history of pharmaceuticals. Viagra, which is the trade name for the drug sildenafil, is prescribed for men who can't get or maintain an erection when sexually stimulated.

Before looking at what would happen if a woman took Viagra — which is not a joke, by the way — let's explore for a moment how Viagra works on men. So how exactly is Viagra triggered when a man is sexually stimulated? Here's how it goes: When a man is aroused, his body releases nitric oxide into the erectile tissue of his penis, which stimulates an enzyme that produces cyclic guanosine monophosphate (cGMP). This causes the smooth muscle cells to relax and the arteries in the penis to dilate, which increases the blood flow to the penis and causes the erectile tissue to also fill with blood. The combination results in an erection. Viagra works by maintaining the level of cGMP in the smooth muscle cells, which are only present in the first place when a man is turned on [source: BPAS].

Thus endeth the science lesson. Now, on to the original question: What happens if a woman takes Viagra? (First up, always consult a physician before taking prescription medications. The doctor can assess your situation and prescribe the best course of treatment for you or your symptoms.)

A 2003 study from the University of California, Los Angeles, Urology Department was conducted to examine at the effects of sildenafil citrate (Viagra) on postmenopausal women with female sexual arousal disorder (FSAD). Interestingly enough, researchers found that it helped women in a couple of ways. For instance, the women reported increased genital sensation and increased satisfaction during intercourse and stimulation. However, the women also reported some mild side effects, including headache, flushing, rhinitis and nausea [source: Berman].

Since this study, however, few other studies have been designed to examine the effects of women taking Viagra. As of mid-2015, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration has not approved the drug for women. So if you're a woman experiencing sexual difficulties, see your doctor. There may be other treatments that have been proven safer and more effective for your problems.

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