Viagra Linked To Blindness — Are You At Risk?

Comforting as it may be for men to know they can reach for Viagra when age or illness has taken a toll of their sex drive, users might want to think twice before popping the little blue pills. Researchers from Australia’s University of New South Wales have released a study claiming that Viagra causes blindness or other vision problems, especially in men whose eyes are already afflicted by some ocular malady, according to their study published in Experimental Eye Research.

Although information that Viagra may cause blindness is new, studies had previously shown that sildenafil — the erection-giving element in medications like Viagra — can temporarily can cause vision problems. The possible long-term effects are startling considering the company behind Viagra, Pfizer Inc. says that more than 23 million men have used the pill since 1998, according to NBC News.

In a statement, Dr. Lisa Bivison-Smith, the first author of the study, said that men with a certain mutant gene for the disease are especially susceptible to the negative effects of Viagra.

“Side effects can include sensitivity to bright light, blurred vision and altered color vision… We are concerned that people [who take Viagra] who have normal vision but who carry a single copy of the mutant gene for the blinding disease, Retinitis Pigmentosa, could be more susceptible to these changes.”

Slidenafil prevents the creation of an essential enzyme that allows the retina to communicate with the brain. Negative effects of high doses prompted the study, but researchers fear that, over time, vision of men who use Viagra even occasionally may suffer — especially those with the genetic predisposition for Retinitis Pigmentosa, said Dr. Bivison-Smith.

“These finding are highly significant because about one in 50 people are likely to be carriers of recessive genes which cause retinal disease but are unlikely to know this, because their vision is normal.”

However, both sets of mice used in the study — the ones with the genetic mutation and the ones without — showed at least a slight reduced visual capability after being treated with slidenafil. Those without the mutation, however, were able to recover from the the Viagra ingredient’s effects. Those with the mutation appear to have been permanently damaged by Viagra’s dose of slidenafil.

The doctors behind the study are hopeful that they will be able to use the information to make breakthroughs in genetic blindness research, and as well as prevent possibly corrosive environmental factors like consuming Viagra and other drugs with slidenafil.

“A better understanding of the effect of this family of erectile dysfunction drugs could help scientists and clinicians plan more successful strategies to account for factors such as a patient’s medication and genetic makeup in diseases which cause blindness.”

Do you or someone you love take Viagra? Would you stop taking it now that researchers say Viagra may cause blindness?

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