Levitra (vardenafil) and Viagra (sildenafil) are two of the most popular erectile dysfunction drugs on the market, used by millions of men in the US and tens of millions worldwide.
Both drugs are designed to help treat erectile dysfunction by improving blood flow to the erectile tissue of the penis. While the effects of Levitra and Viagra are very similar, there are also a few key differences between the two medication that are worth knowing about.
Below, we’ve listed the main differences between Levitra and Viagra, from the best time to take each medication before sex to the different amounts of time Levitra and Viagra will improve your sexual performance and provide relief from erectile dysfunction (ED).
How Levitra and Viagra Work
Levitra and Viagra both belong to a class of medications known as PDE5 inhibitors. They work by increasing blood flow to the soft, erectile tissue of your penis, helping you get and maintain an erection easier during sexual activity.
The active ingredient in Levitra is called vardenafil. Under the brand name Levitra, vardenafil was approved by the FDA in 2003 as an erectile dysfunction treatment. This means Levitra is the newer of the two drugs.
The active ingredient in Viagra is called sildenafil(generic Viagra). Like vardenafil, sildenafil is a PDE5 inhibitor that increases blood flow to the erectile tissue of your penis. As Viagra, sildenafil was approved by the FDA in 1999, making it the oldest of the three most widely used ED medications.
Because of its effects on arterial blood flow, sildenafil is also used as a treatment for pulmonary hypertension, or high blood pressure. Vardenafil is used exclusively to treat erectile dysfunction and is not marketed or used as a treatment for hypertension.
Does Levitra or Viagra Last Longer?
Levitra and Viagra both last for a similar amount of time in the body. Body drugs are designed to provide short-term relief from ED, usually for one evening of sexual activity.
Levitra, as well as generic vardenafil, has a half-life of four to six hours. This means it usually takes four to six hours for your body to metabolize and get rid of half of the active ingredient in the medication.
On average, vardenafil works for up to seven hours after you take it. However, the drug’s effects usually start to fade after about four hours.
Viagra, as well as generic sildenafil, has a half-life of four hours. It works for three to six hours after you take it at a normal dose. However, most men notice the effects of Viagra fading after about three to four hours.
In general, Levitra and Viagra both last for a similar amount of time. Neither drug is particularly long-lasting, meaning that if you take them after dinner, the effects will usually end right before you go to sleep for the night.
Cialis (tadalafil), on the other hand, is designed to provide relief from erectile dysfunction for 36 to 48 hours, making it the best option if you need a “weekend” ED drug.
Verdict: Levitra and Viagra both last for a similar amount of time, although Levitra has a slightly longer duration of action. Both medications are a good option if you need to improve your sexual performance and avoid ED for one night.
Which Drug is More Effective?
Levitra and Viagra are both very effective at treating erectile dysfunction. In clinical trials, both medications are effective for approximately 80 percent of men, who report satisfactory erections after using the drugs:
In a clinical trial of Levitra, 80 percent of men reported receiving an erection that was sufficient for penetrative sex with the 20mg dose of Levitra. Levitra is also effective at lower doses, with 75 percent of men achieving a sufficient erection using the 10mg dose.
In a clinical trial of Viagra, 82 percent of men reported improved erections after using the high, 100mg dose of the medication. 74 percent of men reported improved erections after using the standard 50mg dose of Viagra.
When it comes to treating erectile dysfunction, Levitra and Viagra are both equally effective. If you’re prone to ED, both medications should provide relief from ED and an improvement in your sexual performance, provided you take the correct dose for you.
Verdict: There is no statistically significant difference in effectiveness between Levitra and Viagra.
Which Drug Works Faster?
Levitra and Viagra are both fast-acting drugs, meaning you usually won’t need to wait long after taking them to have sex.
Taken at a normal dose, Levitra starts working after about 30 minutes. It can take up to one hour for the medication to become fully effective, meaning you’ll usually get the best results by taking Levitra one hour before sex.
Like Levitra, Viagra usually starts working in 30 minutes and usually needs an hour become fully effective.
Verdict: Both medications take the same amount of time to start working and provide the best results after about one hour.
Are Levitra and Viagra Affected by Food?
Levitra usually isn’t affected by food, meaning you can take it with or shortly after a meal without affecting the amount of time required for the medication to start working. It’s best to avoid highly fatty meals when using Levitra, as these can slow down absorption of the medication.
Viagra is affected by food and is designed to be taken on an empty stomach. If you take Viagra after eating, it might take longer than one hour for the medication to start working, especially if you eat a large meal with a high fat content.
Verdict: If you need an ED medication you can take with dinner, Levitra is a better choice than Viagra. However, with both drugs, it’s best to avoid large, high-fat meals.
Which Drug Has the Fewest Side Effects?
The side effects of Levitra and Viagra are almost identical. However, there is one unique side effect of Levitra that’s important to know about if you have any conditions that cause irregular heartbeat, such as long QT syndrome.
The most common side effects of Levitra and Viagra are nasal congestion, headache, flushing in the face and heartburn/indigestion. It’s also possible to experience blurred/blue-tinted vision and muscle aches after using either medication, especially if you take a relatively high dose.
The side effects of Levitra and Viagra usually occur two to three hours after you first take the medication. Many men notice headache, heartburn and flushing after the effects of the drugs have faded, usually after sexual activity.
If you have long QT syndrome, a heart condition that can cause an irregular heartbeat and/or heart palpitations, you should not use Levitra.
Long QT syndrome can be caused by several medications, including cardiovascular drugs and antibiotics. If you use any other prescription medications, it’s important to tell your doctor before considering Levitra or any other PDE5 inhibitors, such as Viagra or Cialis.
Verdict: Levitra and Viagra have almost identical side effects, although Levitra generally should not be used if you have long QT syndrome.
Concerned about the side effects of Levitra and Viagra? Our guide to what to expect from ED medication covers the most common side effects of Levitra, Viagra and Cialis, from heartburn and headaches to facial flushing.
Which Drug is the Safest?
Levitra and Viagra are both safe to use for most men. However, there are a few situations in which both drugs can interact with other medication, causing side effects such as dizziness, slow metabolization and hypotension:
Levitra and Viagra can both interact with nitrates and other medications used to treat hypertension to cause a sudden drop in blood pressure. If you use any medication to treat hypertension, make sure you inform your doctor before considering either drug.
Grapefruit and grapefruit juice can both interact with Levitra and Viagra, causing your body to metabolize the drug slower than normal. Avoid consuming any food or drinks that contain grapefruit before or while using Levitra or Viagra.
Although light alcohol consumption (one to two servings of wine or beer) is fine while using PDE5 inhibitors, you should avoid drinking to excess if you’ve taken Levitra or Viagra.
If you’ve had a stroke, heart attack or other cardiovascular event, or if you have an existing heart condition, you’ll need to tell your doctor before considering Levitra or Viagra.
Verdict: Levitra and Viagra are both safe for most people. However, you need to inform your doctor about any other prescription medications you use, especially nitrates and other drugs used to treat hypertension.
Levitra and Viagra Dosages
Levitra is available in three doses, ranging from a 5mg dose intended to treat mild ED to the highest dose of 20mg:
10mg. This is the recommended starting dose of Levitra. If you have mild to moderate erectile dysfunction and your doctor recommends Levitra, you’ll probably be put on this dose to assess your results.
20mg. This is the highest dose of Levitra. You’ll usually be prescribed this dose if you have persistent, severe ED that doesn’t improve with the 10mg dose of Levitra. Do not exceed a 20mg dose of Levitra.
5mg. This is the smallest available dose of Levitra. It’s typically used to treat mild ED, often in younger men. In clinical trials of Levitra, the 5mg dose is enough to cause an improvement in erections for most men.
Viagra comes in three different doses:
50mg. This is the recommended starting dose of Viagra. If you have mild to moderate ED and you’ve never used any ED medication before, your doctor will likely start your treatment with this dose of Viagra as needed.
100mg. This is the highest dose of Viagra. It’s usually prescribed if you have severe ED, or if your symptoms don’t improve with the 50mg dose. You should not exceed 100mg of Viagra.
25mg. This light dose of Viagra is typically used to treat mild ED, especially in younger men. Your doctor might also recommend this dose if you’re prone to headaches, facial flushing and other side effects from the 50 or 100mg doses of Viagra.
Verdict: It’s easy to get Levitra or Viagra at the appropriate dose for you, letting you get all of the benefits of the medication with as few side effects as possible.
Which Drug is Better?
Levitra and Viagra are very similar medications. They both work for about the same amount of time and show similar improvements for men with ED in clinical trials. If you have ED and need a reliable medication to help you become and stay erect, both drugs are great choices.
If you need an ED medication that you can take with dinner, Levitra might be the better choice out of the two. It’s less affected by food than Viagra, meaning you won’t notice any delay in its effects unless you eat a very fatty meal.
If you prefer a shorter-acting ED medication, or if you have long QT syndrome, Viagra might be a better choice. It’s out of your system slightly faster than Levitra and doesn’t increase your risk of ventricular arrhythmia.
Learn More About Treating Erectile Dysfunction
Can’t decide which ED drug is best for you? Our guide to the most common ED medications goes into more detail on how Viagra, Levitra and Cialis compare, from each drug’s origins to side effects, advantages and disadvantages.
We’ve also covered the basics of using Viagra, Levitra and Cialis in our guide to making the most of ED medication, from the best time to take your pill to tips for improving ED through a range of healthy habits and lifestyle changes.