ED Basics

Does Viagra® Make You Bigger?

June 24, 2021

Medically reviewed by

David Culpepper, MD

Viagra is one of the world’s most popular ED medications.

And despite being a prescription medication for a sensitive issue, Viagra has transcended the taboo and crossed into mainstream pop culture. The name is common vernacular.

As a result of being so popular worldwide, rumors and misconceptions are common, too.

One of the more popular rumors is that taking Viagra will increase the size of your penis. Viagra makes you bigger: fact or fiction?

What Is Viagra?

Viagra is the brand name for a drug called sildenafil, the very first oral medication used and approved by the FDA to treat erectile dysfunction. Sildenafil was initially studied in the late 1980s as a potential treatment for hypertension (high blood pressure) and angina (chest pain). While the drug didn’t have the desired effect on these conditions, it did seem to induce and improve erections. After years of research and clinical trials, the pharmaceutical company Pfizer received approval for use by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) in March of 1998. 

Since its arrival on the market, it’s estimated that over 40 million men worldwide have used Viagra at least once, making it by the far the single most popular erectile dysfunction treatment. In recent years, the patent that Pfizer had on sildenafil has expired, leading to the arrival of significantly cheaper generic versions of Viagra

Outside of presentation (tablet shape and color) and price, there are really no differences between branded and generic forms of Viagra from an active ingredient standpoint, and both are effective at treating erectile dysfunction. 

What Is Erectile Dysfunction? 

When a man has difficulty achieving or maintaining an erection that's firm enough for sex, it's considered erectile dysfunction. In general, erectile dysfunction occurs because there's insufficient blood flowing to the penis, the penis is not properly maintaining enough blood during the erection, or nerve signals are not indicating it's time for arousal to begin.

Erectile dysfunction often happens as the result of an underlying medical condition. Some of the most common physical factors that contribute to the onset of erectile dysfunction include:

  • Atherosclerosis 
  • Damage from cancer or cancer treatments
  • Diabetes or high blood glucose
  • Excessive alcohol
  • Heart disease
  • High cholesterol
  • Hypertension or high blood pressure
  • Obesity or being overweight
  • Sedentary lifestyle
  • Smoking

Some of the leading causes of erectile dysfunction in men are adverse effects from taking other medications. In fact, it’s estimated that nearly one in four cases of erectile dysfunction are caused by another medication. Some of the most common medications that have a history of causing erectile dysfunction include:

  • Alpha blockers
  • Antiarrhythmics
  • Antidepressants
  • Antihistamines
  • Chemotherapy
  • Diuretics
  • High blood pressure
  • Muscle relaxers
  • Thiazides
  • Tranquilizers

Of course, it’s important to continue taking these medications if prescribed by your physician. If they're causing erectile dysfunction, talk to your doctor about using alternative options, if possible.  

Erectile dysfunction can also be brought on by psychological issues as well. Stress, depression, anxiety, and relationship problems are common causes of erectile dysfunction. Unfortunately, erectile dysfunction due to emotional factors can be harder to treat and may require therapy or counseling.  

How Does Viagra Work? 

Sildenafil, the active ingredient in Viagra, is on in a class of drugs called phosphodiesterase type 5 (PDE5) inhibitors. Along with sildenafil, other PDE5 inhibitors include tadalafil (the active ingredient in Cialis®), vardenafil (the active ingredient in Levitra®), and avanafil (the active ingredient in Stendra®). These medications all work to help the user achieve an erection suitable for sexual activities. 

When sexual stimulation occurs, nitric oxide is released throughout the body. This substance acts as a messenger and tells the smooth muscles in the penis to relax and the blood vessels to expand. This dramatically increases blood flow to the penis and results in an erection. 

In the case of erectile dysfunction, this process may be interrupted, preventing an erection from forming. While there are many potential causes, the enzyme PDE5 plays a role. Located in the walls of blood vessels, PDE5 regulates the dilation of vessels and arteries. When the body wants to return to normal after sex, PDE5 leads to the constriction of vessels to return them to their regular size. 

This is where PDE5 inhibiting medications like sildenafil help. By blocking the PDE5 enzyme from performing its job as a "braking system" on the erection process, these drugs help to keep blood vessels relaxed and blood flowing to the penis for an erection. Typically, the erection-producing effects of Viagra can last for about four hours, though this will vary depending on dose and metabolism.  

Does Viagra Make Your Penis Bigger?

The effect that Viagra has on the penis is only temporary. No, it will not make your penis any bigger, and there are no FDA-approved oral medications that can. There are plenty of pills marketed as “natural male enhancements” that claim to increase penis size, but these are largely devoid of clinical research, and their manufacturers have repeatedly been sued for false advertising and failure to list ingredients

Technically, when you use Viagra or another PDE5 inhibitor and achieve an erection, your penis is temporarily “bigger.” These "male enhancement" manufacturers use this technicality as a way to solidify their claims of increasing size. The FDA frequently warns against their use. 

While various products are advertised for enlarging your penis, including pills, lotions, vacuum pumps, various exercises, and penis stretching devices, none of them work long-term. The reason is simple biology. The penis has two tube-like tissues that run down each side called the corpus cavernosa, and another tube that surrounds the urethra called the corpus spongiosum. When an erection occurs, the rush of blood to these areas fills up these spongy tissues, similar to inflating a balloon. The larger the corpus cavernosum and corpus spongiosum, the bigger the erection. 

The overall size of these tissues is determined during puberty as a result of genetics and hormone exposure. After puberty, the size of your penis is set for life. 

rmd_art1_600x180.jpeg

How To Enhance the Effects of Viagra 

While Viagra will not increase the size of your penis, there are a few things you can do to improve its effect on your erection. 

Making these lifestyle changes can also help to reduce the frequency and severity of erectile dysfunction and possibly eliminate the need for Viagra altogether. These tips for improving your overall health and sex life include:

  • Get more exercise. Erections rely on proper blood flow. Anything that's good for your circulatory or cardiovascular system is good for your erections. Walking for 30 minutes a day is enough to reduce the odds of experiencing erectile dysfunction by roughly 40%. Additionally, extra exercise can help you lose weight. Research has shown that men with a 32 inch waist are half as likely to experience erectile dysfunction as men with a 42 inch waist. 
  • Eat a balanced diet. Cutting back on sodium, saturated fats, sugar, refined grains, and processed meats can also improve heart health. Instead, eat more fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and proteins. These can help to reduce the odds of experiencing high blood pressure, heart disease, and diabetes, which are all major contributors to erectile dysfunction. 
  • Quit smoking. Smoking cigarettes is bad for your overall health, but it can also dramatically improve the odds of experiencing erectile dysfunction. The nicotine in tobacco constricts arteries which will reduce blood flow and increase blood pressure, while added chemicals also damage and impair the heart and lungs. 
  • Cut back on alcohol. Alcohol abuse is another risk factor for erectile dysfunction. While one or two drinks aren't likely to do much harm, heavy drinking in the short term and long term will. Alcohol is a depressant and damages the nervous system while also reducing blood volume. A long history of heavy drinking can damage the liver and even result in an increase in the female sex hormone estrogen. High estrogen can have a negative impact on men's sexual performance.

The Takeaway

Technically, Viagra does make your penis bigger temporarily as you get an erection. But there are no long term effects on penis size when using Viagra, and it is not a "male enhancement" medication.

Viagra is intended to be used as a treatment for erectile dysfunction, and it makes no claims regarding improved penis size or sexual performance. There are no medications approved by the FDA to enhance penis size. 

If you're curious whether ED medications might be right for you, a Rex MD clinician can help. The process is all online, and ordering is easy. Click here to get started with a free online consultation today.