Could Your Erectile Dysfunction Medication Lead To Vision Problems?

Back pain, indigestion, headaches, and flushing are mild side effects sometimes associated with oral erectile dysfunction (ED) medications, reports the Mayo Clinic. These drugs boost blood flow to the penis so the user can maintain an erection. While the chemical compounds in each medication may vary to some degree, all have been proven effective in treating the condition.

Commonly prescribed brands of ED medications include Viagra, Cialis, Levitra, and Stendra, among others. In association with some of these medications, some users have reported instances of blurred vision, blue-tinged vision, and changes in light perception (via WebMD). While a 2009 study published in the Archives of Ophthalmology determined that vision loss did not significantly affect users who took doses of Viagra or Cialis every day for a period of six months (via WebMD), new research suggests there may be a stronger link between vision problems and ED medications than previously thought.

In a large-scale study of insurance claims submitted between 2006 to 2020 by over 200,000 older men, researchers at The University of British Columbia examined the relationship between the usage of ED medications and the risk of developing one of three different ocular conditions: serous retinal detachment (SRD), retinal vascular occlusion (RVO), and ischemic optic neuropathy (ION).

Changes in blood flow from ED medications may affect the eyes

Published in JAMA Ophthalmology, the new research findings showed that those taking Viagra, Cialis, Levitra, and Stendra were 85% more prone to these eye conditions than non-users of ED medications (via UBC). Serous retinal detachment (SRD) results from fluid buildup behind the retina, which can cause the appearance of spots in one's vision. Retinal vascular occlusion (RVO) is a condition caused by blood clots in the retina and can lead to blurred vision or the appearance of dark spots. Ischemic optic neuropathy (ION) occurs when the optic nerve is not receiving adequate blood flow and can ultimately result in vision loss.

Associate professor in the department of ophthalmology and visual sciences at the UBC faculty of medicine, Dr. Mahyar Etminan, explains in a public statement that these study findings are not a confirmation of causation but rather proof of a correlation. Dr. Etminan offers insight on what could potentially be behind the link, stating, "These medications address erectile dysfunction by improving blood flow, but we know that they can also hinder blood flow in other parts of the body," (via UBC).

Experts at the American Academy of Ophthalmology explain that some users may be more susceptible to serious eye conditions or eye pain based on pre-existing health conditions and should consult with their doctor to determine whether or not ED medications would be a suitable treatment option. Those who experience sudden vision loss should seek prompt medical attention.