Study explores vision side effects caused by erectile dysfunction medications  

Erectile dysfunction medical has enabled many men to maintain a romantic relationship over the past few decades. Like many medications, however, various prescriptions formulated to address erectile dysfunction may cause unexpected side effects. Doctors and patients must work together to determine whether this type of treatment is appropriate, as well as recognizing potential side effects and the symptoms they may pose. A study completed by the University of California at Irvine investigated side effects that may occur, how they might be recognized, and explores the chemical reactions that may be their cause.

During the University of California – Irvine study, which was recently published in the Science Advances magazine, an enzyme critical to vision called PDE6 was fully analyzed for the first time. PDEs, short for photoreceptor phosphodiesterase, are involved in many different functions in the human body. Various types of PDEs are related to different medical conditions and are often the target of the prescriptions written to address them. But because those PDE types are so similar, a drug meant to impact one can also bind with other PDEs and lead to side effects.

PDE inhibitors, including those prescribed for erectile dysfunction like Levitra and Viagra, can interrupt the work being done by other PDEs while binding specifically to the structure targeted. In the case of those two medications, that may lead specifically to side effects impacting the patient’s vision. Many cases of blurry vision, the loss or transformation of color vision, sensitivity to light, and even permanent optic nerve damage have been reported. Fortunately, this side effect only impacts a very small percentage of men who are prescribed Levitra and Viagra.

While conducting the study, researchers were able to capture better visuals of the PDE6 structure than have been experienced in the past. In addition, by discovering areas that resemble a fish hook, this research may enable pharmaceutical companies and medical researchers to develop different types of PDE inhibitors in the future that can treat the medical condition for which they are prescribed while also limiting or eliminating side effects other drugs may cause.

The research was supported by many different health organizations whose grants enabled the studies to continue, including the Canadian Institute for Advanced Research, the National Institutes of Health, and the Research to Prevent Blindness organization. The resulting outcomes may benefit a large number of erectile dysfunction patients in the future.