Reviewed by Katelyn Hagerty, FNP
Written by Our Editorial Team
Sildenafil is one of the most popular medications for erectile dysfunction (ED). You probably know it by the brand name Viagra®, which has become synonymous with erections over the past two decades.
Thanks to sildenafil’s legendary status, the medication is — unsurprisingly — the subject of many myths and misunderstandings.
For example, if you’ve scrolled through online forums for ED, you may have seen discussions about topical sildenafil or Viagra gel. You massage it onto your penis and boom — you get an erection soon after.
Unfortunately, sildenafil isn’t available as a topical gel. Not yet, anyway.
Although there are a few studies on sildenafil gel as a potential treatment for erectile dysfunction, there’s currently not enough research on it.
Sildenafil gel may be confused with other ED medications, and some dodgy online stores sell what they claim is “erection gel.”
There’s also a brand-spanking-new over-the-counter erectile dysfunction gel called Eroxon. Adding to the confusion, some news outlets have inaccurately dubbed Eroxon “topical Viagra®.”
If you’re one of the millions of men who experience erectile dysfunction, it’s important to know your options. Let’s talk about sildenafil gel for ED and other potential treatments.
Sildenafil citrate is the active ingredient in the medication Viagra®. It’s a phosphodiesterase type 5 (PDE5) inhibitor. These medications work by increasing blood flow to your penis, making it easier to get and maintain an erection.
When it was approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) in 1998, sildenafil was the first oral medication available specifically for treating erectile dysfunction. You need a prescription to buy and use sildenafil.
Sildenafil is pretty effective. And when used correctly, it’s safe. But contrary to internet rumor, it’s only available as a pill — not as a gel.
While some studies have looked at the possibility of using a sildenafil gel for erectile dysfunction, no manufacturers have actually pushed for it to be FDA-approved. Because of this, it’s not possible to buy a sildenafil-based erection gel.
Many people seem to confuse sildenafil gel with sildenafil jelly, which is taken orally and isn’t available in the United States. (Well, not unless you get it from a dodgy online shop — which we don’t suggest.) It may also be confused with AndroGel® and alprostadil cream.
Some drug manufacturers produce a version of sildenafil that’s sold as an oral jelly. This includes Kamagra Oral Jelly, a flavored jelly manufactured in India.
If swallowing a tablet is difficult for you, Kamagra may sound appealing. However, sildenafil jellies haven’t been approved by the FDA, and they aren’t legally available in the United States.
Still, you might come across U.S.-based online stores that sell Kamagra. They may market these products as supplements for sexual performance.
To say this is a red flag is an understatement. Selling Kamagra in the United States is illegal, for one thing, and there’s no way to tell whether the products are real or fake.
Kamagra is the most common imitation ED medication sold online, according to a 2010 review. The review also found that fake ED medications are often mislabeled and filled with contaminants — like talcum powder, commercial paint and printer ink — as well as other dodgy ingredients.
Basically, it’s not something you’d want in (or on) your body.
Though these stores let you purchase ED medications without a prescription, buying from them is ill-advised. Sildenafil can be safe for many people, but they aren’t suitable for everyone.
For instance, it can be dangerous to use sildenafil if you’re also taking nitrates or hypertension medication. This combination could lead to dangerously low blood pressure.
Although buying over-the-counter Viagra® may sound convenient, landing in the hospital on date night is absolutely not. So pass on the Kamagra, and speak with a healthcare professional if you’re experiencing any form of sexual dysfunction.
If a flavored treatment sounds good to you, consider trying our chewable ED mints.
Sildenafil gel may also be confused with AndroGel, a topical gel prescribed to men with low testosterone levels.
AndroGel contains testosterone, an important hormone that plays a role in controlling your level of interest in sex. Although the link between testosterone and erections isn’t totally clear, this type of medication may offer benefits if you have a weak sex drive caused by low testosterone.
One small randomized study looked at the effects of testosterone gel for erectile dysfunction in men who didn’t get results from using sildenafil alone. The study only looked at hypogonadal men, meaning they have low hormone levels.
The researchers concluded that testosterone gel, when combined with sildenafil, may improve erectile function in hypogonadal men.
While this is great news for men with low testosterone levels, AndroGel is not a treatment for erectile dysfunction.
Sildenafil gel may also be confused with alprostadil cream.
Although it’s more of an erection cream than an erection gel, alprostadil can be an effective topical treatment for erectile dysfunction. You simply apply it before sexual activity and wait for it to do its magic (that is, to boost blood flow to the penis).
A 2016 review of studies found that alprostadil cream is a potential second-line therapy for erectile dysfunction. In other words, it could be helpful for people who can’t (or don’t want to) use PDE5 inhibitors like sildenafil.
While alprostadil cream is sold in quite a few countries, it’s not available in the United States. The FDA has approved some forms of alprostadil for the treatment of erectile dysfunction — injections and pellets, to be specific — but not alprostadil cream.
Right now, no gel-based version of sildenafil is available to the public in the United States.
Over the years, some researchers have looked at the effectiveness of topical sildenafil gel for erectile dysfunction, with largely mixed results.
A small 2005 study with less than 100 participants compared the effects of topical sildenafil with oral sildenafil to see which was a more effective treatment for ED.
Of the men treated with topical sildenafil, 12.5 percent achieved complete erection after a short period of massage. Another 12.5 percent achieved a moderate erection, while 75 percent didn’t achieve an erection at all.
In comparison, 70 percent of the men who received oral sildenafil achieved a complete erection, with 15 percent achieving a moderate erection. Only 15 percent of the men in this group didn’t achieve an erection following treatment.
Put simply, the oral sildenafil tablet was significantly more effective than the topical sildenafil gel.
More recently, a 2022 review explored whether topical PDE5 inhibitors may help with erectile dysfunction. It concluded that these treatments can be “promising” in mild to moderate cases of erectile dysfunction.
Though we may eventually get a sildenafil-based erection gel, reviews like these are few and far between. More research is needed before topical sildenafil is offered to the public.
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Let’s face it: Erectile dysfunction can be frustrating. The good news is that it’s almost always treatable with the right approach.
Several medications are currently available for the treatment of erectile dysfunction, including:
Oral sildenafil. Available as Viagra® and as a generic medication, sildenafil tablets typically start working in less than an hour, providing relief from erectile dysfunction for up to four hours per dose.
Tadalafil. The active ingredient in Cialis®, tadalafil is also available as a generic medication. It’s by far the longest-lasting treatment for ED, with a single tablet providing relief for up to 36 hours.
Vardenafil. The active ingredient in Levitra®, vardenafil comes in tablet form and lasts up to four hours like sildenafil.
Avanafil. Available under the brand name Stendra®, avanafil is a new ED medication. It works quickly, isn’t affected by food and has a reduced risk of certain side effects.
Hard mints. If the idea of swallowing a pill is unappealing, consider our chewable ED meds. They’re made with ingredients like sildenafil, tadalafil and vardenafil.
If you’re looking for a topical treatment for ED, a new option is available. The FDA recently approved Eroxon, a gel for erectile dysfunction. It’s the first ED treatment legally available over the counter in the United States.
Some news outlets have dubbed the treatment “topical Viagra®.” While catchy, this nickname is inaccurate — Eroxon doesn’t contain sildenafil. Instead, this erectile dysfunction gel works by physically cooling and warming the penis, according to the website.
Beyond taking medications, there are some ways to naturally protect erectile function. Making small but meaningful changes to your day-to-day life can have a positive impact on your sexual function.
If you’re experiencing erectile dysfunction, premature ejaculation or other issues relating to sexual performance, consider getting medical advice from a licensed healthcare provider.
Sildenafil is an effective ED treatment, but it’s currently only sold as a pill. At the moment, there’s no sildenafil-based erectile dysfunction gel available on the market.
Sildenafil is not available as a gel. Although research has looked at the effectiveness of topical sildenafil gel for ED, no drug company has pushed for a gel-based version of sildenafil to undergo the FDA approval process.
Beware of dodgy sellers. If a store sells what they claim is sildenafil gel, run! Many online stores sell counterfeit ED medication, which may be filled with harmful ingredients. Your health isn’t worth the gamble — go the legit route and speak with a licensed health professional.
Other treatment options are available. There are many safe, FDA-approved medications for the treatment of erectile dysfunction, including oral medications and a new over-the-counter erectile dysfunction gel. Plus, certain healthy lifestyle habits can support your sexual health.
Although erectile dysfunction can be frustrating, it’s common and (fortunately) treatable. To learn about your options, check out our blog post on the latest ED treatments and our guide on how to get hard.
Need assistance sooner than later? Our online platform can connect you with a healthcare professional today.