Retina undamaged by long-term use of impotence drugs

NEW YORK (Reuters Health) - Healthy men who use drugs to treat impotence may be able to stop worrying - at least for now -- about a loss of vision caused by the drugs. A new study, published in the Archives of Ophthalmology, detected no changes in visual function, signs of retina damage or intraocular pressure after the daily use for 6 months of sildenafil (Viagra) or tadalafil (Cialis).

Viagra and Cialis are commonly used to treat erectile dysfunction and are also being considered for use in other disorders. However, these drugs have been associated with visual side effects, such as blue-tinged or blurred vision and light sensitivity, explain Dr. William H. Cordell, at Eli Lilly and Company in Indianapolis, and colleagues.

To investigate further, Cordell’s team conducted a study of healthy men with or without mild erectile dysfunction, between 30 and 65 years old and with no ophthalmologic abnormalities or risk factors. The men were randomly assigned to daily treatment with Viagra 50 mg, Cialis 5 mg, or placebo. The analysis included 155 men who completed 6 months of treatment and 212 men who completed 3 months.

Following treatment with the two erectile dysfunction drugs, no clinically important side effects or differences were detected among the three groups at 3 months, 6 months, or at a posttreatment follow-up 4 to 6 weeks later.

Similarly, treatment had no effect on visual acuity, color discrimination, intraocular pressure or any other functions.

No cases of nonarteritic anterior ischemic optic neuropathy or other serious ocular damage occurred during the trial, the authors note. Nonarteritic anterior ischemic optic neuropathy is characterized by sudden visual loss, swelling of the optic disc and sometimes hemorrhaging in the area. The condition is usually permanent, and up to 20 percent of patients can suffer total visual loss.

The authors conclude that the findings indicate no cumulative damage or effect of clinical significance for 5 mg of Cialis or 50 mg or Viagra taken daily for 6 months.

However, they caution that their findings can’t be generalized to patients who have coexisting systemic or ocular disease.

SOURCE: Archives of Ophthalmology, April 2009.