Some thoughts on scuba diving while taking erectile dysfunction drugs.
‘Viagra, Levitra, and Cialis all belong to a class of drugs called phosphodiesterase (PDE) inhibitors. Taken an hour before sexual activity, these drugs work by enhancing the effects of nitric oxide, a chemical that relaxes smooth muscles in the penis during sexual stimulation and allows increased blood flow.
While oral medicines improve the response to sexual stimulation, they do not trigger an automatic erection as injections do. The recommended dose for Viagra is 50 mg, and the physician may adjust this dose to 100 mg or 25 mg, depending on the patient. The recommended dose for either Levitra or Cialis is 10 mg, and the physician may adjust this dose to 20 mg if 10 mg is insufficient. A lower dose of 5 mg is available for patients who take other medicines or have conditions that may decrease the body’s ability to use the drug. Levitra is also available in a 2.5 mg dose.
None of these PDE inhibitors should be used more than once a day. Men who take nitrate-based drugs such as nitroglycerin for heart problems should not use either drug because the combination can cause a sudden drop in blood pressure. Also, tell your doctor if you take any drugs called alpha-blockers, which are used to treat prostate enlargement or high blood pressure. Your doctor may need to adjust your ED prescription. Taking a PDE inhibitor and an alpha-blocker at the same time (within 4 hours) can cause a sudden drop in blood pressure.’
Side effects include a bluish tinge to the vision in some – which should not have any untoward effect on divers. Also, reported possible more serious eye problems and increased stroke haven’t panned out in large studies. If your doctor finds you healthy enough to dive, then you should not have any qualms about using the medications before, during and after your diving trip.
An interesting recent finding is that increased levels of nitric oxide seem to reduce the incidence of bubbling during and after a dive. Thus, it would seem that taking daily doses of Cialis would decrease your chances of getting bubble related diving illnesses. See the abstract of a study printed below.
1: Med Sci Sports Exerc. 2006 Aug;38(8):1432-5.
Exogenous nitric oxide and bubble formation in divers.
Departments of Physiology, University of Split School of Medicine, Split, Croatia. firstname.lastname@example.org
PURPOSE: Prevention of bubble formation is a central goal in standard decompression procedures. Previously we have shown that exercise 20-24 h prior to a dive reduces bubble formation and increases survival in rats exposed to a simulated dive. Furthermore, we have demonstrated that nitric oxide (NO) may be involved in this protection; blocking the production of NO increases bubble formation while giving rats a long-lasting NO donor 20 h and immediately prior to a dive reduces bubble formation. This study determined whether a short-lasting NO donor, nitroglycerine, reduced bubble formation after standard dives and decompression in man. METHODS: A total of 16 experienced divers were randomly assigned into two groups. One group performed two dives to 30 m of seawater (msw) for 30 min breathing air, and performed exercise at an intensity corresponding to 30% of maximal oxygen uptake during the bottom time. The second group performed two simulated dives to 18 msw for 80 min breathing air in a hyperbaric chamber, and remained sedentary during the bottom period. The first dive for each diver served as the control dive, whereas the divers received 0.4 mg of nitroglycerine by oral spray 30 min before the second dive. Following the dive, gas bubbles in the pulmonary artery were recorded using ultrasound. RESULTS: The open-water dive resulted in significantly more gas bubbles than the dry dive (0.87 +/- 1.3 vs 0.12 +/- 0.23 bubbles per square centimeter). Nitroglycerine reduced bubble formation significantly in both dives from 0.87 +/- 1.3 to 0.32 +/- 0.7 in the in-water dive and from 0.12 +/- 0.23 to 0.03 +/- 0.03 bubbles per square centimeter in the chamber dive. CONCLUSION: The present study demonstrates that intake of a short-lasting NO donor reduces bubble formation following decompression after different dives.
So – my take on all this is that it really won’t cause any problems, but would possibly be beneficial in addition to it’s wanted sexual activity.