Will Viagra Work for Mountain Sickness?

Q. I have heard that Viagra is effective for altitude sickness. Is this true? Diuretics don’t help me.

A. Viagra is best known as a treatment for erectile dysfunction. There are, however, reports that it may have some off-label uses in treating a number of other conditions, including pulmonary hypertension (elevated blood pressure in the artery to the lungs).

One of the problems that may occur when climbing mountains is high-altitude pulmonary edema. In this condition, fluid accumulates in the lungs and makes breathing difficult. The sufferer may have rapid heart rate, shallow rapid breaths and start to turn blue. It can be quite dangerous.

Drugs such as Viagra (sildenafil) and Cialis (tadalafil) can increase the levels of nitric oxide in the blood vessels of the lungs and help them relax (Progress in Cardiovascular Diseases, May-June, 2010). This can reduce the fluid that is leaking into the lungs.

Don’t try to treat yourself for altitude sickness, but discuss this issue with your doctor before you travel since such drugs have side effects. Another option is a blood pressure medicine called nifedipine.

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6 Thoughts Shared

October 26, 2011 at 2:58 am

I was prescribed Viagra some years ago for altitude related sleep problems (a kind of apnea), I never tried it as I thought in taking viagra, I thought I probably wouldn’t get any sleep either nor would the other person in the bed, so I just avoid hotels that are more than 5000ft, which is the altitude where my problems started.

January 20, 2011 at 2:24 pm

I suffered from altitude sickness for years and nothing seemed to work. About 5 years ago a friend suggested that I try acetazolamide (Diamox). I looked into it and found that it is listed for altitude sickness and has been around for many years with minimal known side effects. I took it and the results were nothing short of amazing. No more headaches, nausea, insomnia, etc. I take one tablet the day before I leave and then one a day for 3-4 days until my body adjusts… then I quit the medication. The only thing that I notice is some occasional mild tingling in my fingers and toes. What seems to be so unusual is that so few doctors and medical people are aware of it. When I tell people in the mountains about it they are amazed that no one has ever prescribed it for them.

January 19, 2011 at 5:55 pm

Can altitude sickness develop as one becomes older in age? Maybe the Colorado mountains are more higher up? I developed altitude sickness there just as described. However I don’t remember getting them when I was in the east coast ski areas.

Greg Pharmacy Student
January 19, 2011 at 5:51 pm

Diamox or acetazolamide is also used for mountain sickness.

January 19, 2011 at 1:34 am

Sildenafil (main component of Viagra) and tadalafil (main component of Cialis) are not used ‘off-label” for pulmonary hypertension but have been approved since 2009 in the US, Canada, European Union countries, and Japan. (The doses of the drugs are different than used for erectile dysfunction and, as such, go under the brand names Adcirca (tadalafil) and Revatio (sildenafil) for pulmonary arterial hypertension.

January 19, 2011 at 12:11 am

Years ago I did a lot of skiing. The first day I was so sleepy I had to quit that day. After that, no problem.

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