Sometimes, celebrity news is a benefit to us physicians, especially when it comes to sensitive health topics. The recent circumstances surrounding a famous NBA player and his perilous use of sexual enhancement “supplements” has allowed me the opportunity to discuss the topic, from a health and medical expert position, with a variety of media outlets. No matter their touted benefits, many people simply don’t realize that commercially available sexual enhancement supplements that tout themselves as “all-natural,” rarely are what they claim to be and worse, in some cases can cause life-threatening consequences.
First, it should be noted that the recommendations against what is commonly referred to as “herbal Viagra” aren’t mine alone. The United States Food and Drug Administration has issued multiple warnings against the use of nearly thirty branded names for these commonly marketed pills. Among them, the warning that many of them contain a chemical compound called sildenafil. This compound is the active ingredient in the prescription treatment Viagra – which is only to be prescribed by and used under a physician’s care. The reasons for this aren’t simply because we physicians want control of our patients. They have more to do with how powerful these medications are and how important it is that they be used under the right circumstances.
For example, sildenafil has a tendency to interact with nitrates in some other prescription drugs that may also be taken by the people using these male sexual enhancement supplements. When those interactions occur, they can lower blood pressure to dangerous levels. Additionally, if someone takes more than the recommended dose and is also adding alcohol to the mix, the combination can be deadly.
You see, an erection occurs when blood vessels in the penis dilate or expand. But when there is a problem with a man getting or keeping an erection, the erectile enhancers used – whether herbal or prescription-based – can dilate blood vessels in other areas of the body as well. Sildenafil tends to be the least “accurate” of these forms of medication, meaning it doesn’t just focus on dilating blood vessels in the penis. It can cause situations where all of the blood vessels dilate and there isn’t enough blood that can freely flow through the entire body. This is what can cause a dangerous dip in blood pressure. When the flow of blood throughout the body slows to perilous levels, there isn’t enough blood that can circulate to those organs that need it most – the brain and the heart. This can cause the patient to collapse and in the most severe cases – to die.
The dangers with taking herbal sexual enhancement pills can begin with the psychology of how they are perceived. If a person taking it thinks it isn’t as “strong” as a prescription drug, he may double or triple the dose in an attempt to achieve the desired effect. The result can be disastrous. If the man in your life is having trouble achieving or keeping an erection, encourage him to see a male health expert about it. Today, there are more safe and effective treatments for these issues than ever before.
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