Originally created 08/04/98

Age-old questions



Q: I've heard so much about Viagra lately. Who should and shouldn't take it? Do I need to see an urologist to get a prescription? -- D.F., Waynesboro, Ga.

A: Much like Prozac, Viagra has taken the United States by storm. In fact, Viagra's record-breaking sales have already surpassed Prozac's. And it's no wonder.

Viagra is attractive to so many people because it promises an improved quality of life.

Some 30 million American men suffer from erectile dysfunction, or ED. This condition is characterized by the ongoing inability to achieve or sustain an erection.Health conditions or medications can cause ED, especially in men older than 50. Men with diabetes, vascular disease, high blood pressure and neurological disorders are often at a higher risk for ED. Also, those who take medications for high blood pressure may suffer from this problem.

Thanks to today's technology, there is hope for correcting this problem. Viagra, a major advance for men who experience impotence, has proved effective in correcting more than 70 percent of ED cases. However, the drug is not for everyone.

Those who take nitroglycerin for cardiovascular conditions should not use the medication because it may lower their blood pressure too much.Also, those who have macular degeneration should use the drug with caution. According to the American Academy of Ophthalmology, Viagra often causes short-term vision disturbances in men with this disorder.

Often, men with cardiovascular disease or diabetes won't respond. In fact, many of the men who seek treatment find that "silent" conditions such as diabetes or high blood pressure are causing their impotence.

If you find that Viagra doesn't help you, don't worry. The National Institutes of Health reported that ED can usually be treated successfully. You may benefit from other treatment options, such as prostaglandin injections.

While most primary-care doctors can help with most forms of erectile dysfunction, you should see an urologist if your treatment plan fails.

If you have a question or would like additional information, write to Shirley McIntosh, Resource Center on Aging, 2803 Wrightsboro Road, Suite 51, Augusta, GA 30909.