February 7, 2020 | 3:43pm
This little blue pill is giving men a big blue — or sometimes red — problem: colored vision.
Erectile dysfunction drugs can lead to prolonged retinal dysfunction, a new case study published Friday in the journal Frontiers in Neurology found.
“Sildenafil, also known as the little blue pill or Viagra, is a common medication for men who need a little downstairs perk-me-up,” begins a press release for the report, published by Turkey’s World Eye Hospital, “but Turkish researchers noted a pattern of male patients whom (sic) took the pill suffering from all sorts of visual disturbances.”
Study authors report patients experienced blurred vision, light sensitivity and color-vision disturbances, including “intensely blue colored vision with red/green color blindness” after taking the highest recommended dose of Sildenafil, which was originally developed as a treatment for high blood pressure.
“For the vast majority of men, any side effects will be temporary and mild” after taking Sildenafil, says study author Dr. Cüneyt Karaarslan. “However, I wanted to highlight that persistent eye and vision problems may be encountered for a small number of users.”
In the 17 case reports included in the study, all men were still experiencing side effects when they arrived at the clinic 24 to 48 hours after taking the drug. For some, the symptoms required 21 days to clear up, although in past case studies, patients’ vision has been found to be forever changed.
“He definitely showed some permanent damage to his vision,” ophthalmologist Dr. Richard Rosen tells CNN of a 31-year-old who began seeing red after he took a high dose of an ED medication. The man was the subject of a case report co-authored by Rosen and published in 2018.
Karaarslan believes the side effects are due to a small subsection of men being unable to break down the enhancement drugs. The reason the eye is impacted is not fully understood, Rosen tells CNN, but has something to do with a pair of sister enzymes. One of the enzymes is found in blood vessel walls and can affect the other enzyme, which helps process light within the eye. The one that impacts blood vessel walls is inhibited by the drug’s active ingredient.
“No one knows exactly how this happens,” says Rosen. “We just know there’s a crossover.”