Dr. Babak Ashrafi

Medically reviewed by

Dr Babak Ashrafi

Last reviewed: 21 Nov 2022

Vardenafil is a type of medication called a phosphodiesterase type 5 inhibitor used to treat erectile dysfunction (ED). It works similarly to Viagra by improving blood flow to your penis, making getting and maintaining an erection easier... Vardenafil is commonly found under the brand name Levitra and contains the active ingredient levitra. It’s effective for 58-74% of people that use it and it’s available on prescription. If Vardenafil is suitable for you, we can deliver it to your door in discreet packaging.

Packet front of four film-coated 20mg tablets of Levitra with the active ingredient Vardenafil

Key takeaways

  • Vardenafil is a medication used to treat erectile dysfunction (ED) in men over the age of 18.

  • Vardenafil is commonly found as a branded tablet known as Levitra. This is the same medication.

  • Vardenafil is a phosphodiesterase type 5 inhibitor that can help you to get and keep an erection. It works by reducing the action of a natural chemical in your body that can prevent you from getting an erection. This helps improve blood flow to your penis, making getting an erection easier.

  • Vardenafil should be taken around 25 minutes to an hour before sex and can last around 4 to 5 hours.

How does vardenafil work?

Vardenafil contains the active ingredient vardenafil, which is a phosphodiesterase type 5 inhibitor. It works by reducing the action of a natural chemical inside your body which can make erections go away. This helps you to keep an erection for longer.

How to take vardenafil

  • Take 1 tablet of vardenafil 25 to 60 minutes before sex
  • Swallow the tablet whole with a glass of water
  • You must be sexually aroused for vardenafil to work

You should always take vardenafil as prescribed and never take more than your doctor has told you to.

Vardenafil can be taken with or without food but avoid high fat or heavy meals as this can delay the effect of the medication. Avoid drinking alcohol as this can make it harder to maintain or get an erection. You should also avoid drinking grapefruit juice as this may prevent vardenafil from working as it should and you may lose your erection early.

Do not take vardenafil more than once a day.

How long does it take for vardenafil to work?

Vardenafil usually takes between 25 to 60 minutes to take effect. If you have taken vardenafil after eating a large or high fat meal, it may take a little longer for vardenafil to take effect. This is because your body is also digesting food as well as your medication.

If vardenafil does not work the first time, you should wait until the next time you want to have sex and try again. Make sure this is not on the same day as you cannot take 2 tablets in one day. Your doctor will recommend trying vardenafil on 8 separate occasions before considering a higher dose or changing ED treatment.

How often can you take vardenafil?

You can take vardenafil once per day, which means you should wait 24 hours between doses. If you take more than one tablet in a day, you are more likely to get side effects. Speak to your doctor if you take more vardenafil than you should.

How long does vardenafil last?

Vardenafil usually lasts between 4 and 5 hours, but this can be different for every man.

Dosage information

Vardenafil is available in 3 doses: 5mg, 10mg, and 20mg. The usual starting dose of vardenafil is one 10mg tablet, to be taken no more than once a day. This is to see how your body reacts to the medication and how effective it is for you. If you have tried using vardenafil 8 separate times and it is not working for you or your erections are not lasting as long as you would like, speak to your doctor. They may recommend a higher dose or a different treatment. The highest dose of vardenafil that can be prescribed is 20mg. If you get side effects, but Vardenafil is working for you, your doctor may recommend a lower dose to see if you get the desired effects, but reduced side effects.

Who can use vardenafil?

You can use vardenafil if you are over 18 and diagnosed with erectile dysfunction by a doctor. You must also have a prescription for the medication, as it could potentially be unsafe for you if you don’t.

Who should not take vardenafil

Vardenafil is suitable for most men, but you should not take it if you:

  • have an allergy to any of the ingredients in the tablets
  • take nitrates, which are a medication for chest pain
  • take certain HIV medications called ritonavir or indinavir
  • are over the age of 75 and are taking anti fungal medicines called ketoconazole or itraconazole
  • have a severe liver or heart problem
  • are currently having kidney dialysis
  • have had a recent stroke or heart attack
  • have or have ever had low blood pressure
  • have a family history of degenerative eye diseases like retinitis pigmentosa
  • have ever had non-arteritic ischemic optic neuropathy (NAION)
  • are taking the medication riociguat

You may still be able to use vardenafil but you should speak with your doctor first if you have:

  • a bleeding disorder
  • stomach ulcers
  • an illness that can cause erections that do not go away, such as leukaemia
  • a physical condition that affects the shape of your penis (Peyronie's Disease)
  • a heart problem, as it could be dangerous for you to have sex
  • taken other treatments for ED recently
  • phenylketonuria, as vardenafil contains aspartame and may be harmful

Some medications may make vardenafil unsuitable, so speak to your doctor before using it if you take any medications or are prescribed a new medication whilst taking it.

Side effects of vardenafil

Like all ED treatments vardenafil may cause some side effects but not every man will get them. If you do get side effects, they are more likely to be mild or moderate.

Very common side effects of vardenafil include:

  • headache

Common side effects of vardenafil include:

  • blocked or runny nose
  • indigestion
  • dizziness
  • flushing (redness of the skin)

Uncommon side effects of vardenafil include:

  • sleep disorder
  • swelling of the skin, including lips, face, and throat
  • numbness or changes in sense of touch
  • sleepiness
  • a change in vision
  • ringing in the ears
  • fast or pounding heartbeat
  • breathlessness
  • acid reflux
  • nausea or vomiting (feeling or being sick)
  • dry mouth
  • rash
  • back or muscle pain
  • prolonged erections, you must visit A&E or your doctor if you have an erection that lasts longer than 4 hours

Vardenafil can cause some rare side effects, including:

  • conjunctivitis, an inflammation of the eyes
  • fainting
  • anxiety
  • seizure
  • amnesia
  • allergic reaction
  • increased pressure in the eye (glaucoma)
  • high or low blood pressure
  • nose bleed
  • painful erections
  • chest pain

For more information on vardenafil side effects, check the patient information leaflet.

If you have a sudden temporary or permanent loss of vision in one or both eyes, stop taking vardenafil and speak to your doctor straight away. If you get any other severe side effects, go to A&E or call 999 straight away.

To reduce the risk of side effects, you should let your doctor know if you have any medical conditions or take any other medications before using vardenafil. You should also avoid alcohol, as this could increase side effects like dizziness. Do not drink grapefruit juice with vardenafil because this can affect how it works. Only take the dose you have been prescribed and never take vardenafil more than once in a day.

Vardenafil vs Viagra

While vardenafil and Viagra have different active ingredients, they are both a type of medication called a phosphodiesterase type 5 inhibitor and do still work in the same way. Viagra is a branded medication and vardenafil is a generic medication, this means Viagra is sold under a brand name whereas vardenafil is not, making it more likely to be cheaper or prescribed on the NHS.

Both vardenafil and Viagra need to be taken about 30-60 minutes before sex, and both last up to 4-6 hours. There is a slight difference in how effective each medication is with studies showing Viagra to be 74% effective for men who use it and Levitra 54-74% effective. How effective these medications are varies from person to person, so while Viagra may be the right treatment for you, Levitra may be more effective for someone else. Your doctor will help you find the right and most suitable ED treatment for your needs.

Vardenafil FAQs

How much does vardenafil cost?

Vardenafil is usually found under the branded name Levitra. ZAVA can prescribe Levitra for ED, starting at £25 for a 4 tablet pack.

Is vardenafil available on the NHS?

Yes, you can get vardenafil on the NHS. You may find it under the generic name vardenafil, or the branded name Levitra. You must speak to your GP if you want to get vardenafil on the NHS.

Can you buy vardenafil over the counter?

No,vardenafil can only be prescribed to you which means you cannot get it over the counter. Most ED treatments require a prescription. The only ED treatment currently available over the counter is Viagra Connect.

Do I need a prescription for vardenafil?

Yes, you need a prescription for vardenafil. If you order through ZAVA and complete our short medical questionnaire, our doctors can prescribe vardenafil. It can then be sent to your home in discreet packaging, meaning you do not need to visit a pharmacy with your prescription to collect it.

Can vardenafil tablets be cut in half?

No, vardenafil tablets should only be swallowed whole.

Is vardenafil the same as Viagra?

Vardenafil is not the same as Viagra but is similar. Both medications contain a phosphodiesterase type 5 inhibitor which can help you get and keep an erection. They both work well for ED but come in different doses.

Is vardenafil stronger than Viagra?

Viagra contains sildenafil, which is a different medication from vardenafil. This does not mean that vardenafil is stronger than Viagra, the active ingredient is just different. Some men find that one medication works better than the other to achieve an erection, but this can just be a personal preference.

Is vardenafil better than Viagra?

Vardenafil is not better or worse than Viagra, this depends on your ED symptoms. Some men find that vardenafil works slightly better than Viagra or gives fewer side effects and vice versa.

Is vardenafil the same as Levitra?

Yes, vardenafil is the generic name for the branded tablet Levitra. This means both medications contain vardenafil, work in the same way, and are prescribed in the same doses.

Can vardenafil make you last longer in bed?

Vardenafil is prescribed for ED, which means it is not meant to make you last longer in bed. You may be able to get and keep an erection for longer, but it cannot help with premature ejaculation. You can speak to one of our doctors about premature ejaculation treatment if you want to last longer in bed.

Medically reviewed by:
Dr Babak Ashrafi Clinical Lead for Service Expansion
Accreditations: BSc, MBBS, MRCGP (2008)

Babak studied medicine at King’s College London and graduated in 2003, having also gained a bachelor’s degree in Physiology during his time there. He completed his general practice (GP) training in East London, where he worked for a number of years as a partner at a large inner-city GP practice. He completed the Royal College of GPs membership exam in 2007.

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Last reviewed: 21 Nov 2022

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