Study Links Viagra and Vision Loss, Blindness Risk

Study Links Viagra and Vision Loss, Blindness RiskOctober 3, 2014 — A new study suggests that Viagra, a popular erectile-dysfunction drug, could increase the risk of long-term vision problems if it is used by men with a common genetic mutation.

Clinical trials of Viagra have already found evidence of vision side effects at high doses, such as sensitivity to light, blurry vision, and changes in color vision. Viagra works by inhibiting the enzyme PDE5, but it can also inhibit PDE6 — an enzyme involved in transmitting light signals between the retina and brain.

The problem is that about 1 in 50 men have a genetic mutation that decreases amounts of PDE6. Men with only one copy of the mutation typically have normal vision and are unaware they are carriers. Men with two copies of the mutation can develop Retinis Pigmentosa, the most common genetic cause of blindness.

The researchers investigated the risk in mice. Like clinical trials, mice on high doses of viagra had temporary vision problems. The problems were worse in mice who were carriers of the mutation. The mice also had signs of more severe vision problems, including cell death, which suggests a possible risk of long-term vision degeneration.

The study was published in Experimental Eye Research by Dr. Nivison-Smith of the University for New South Wales in Australia.

He recommended more studies to better understand the interactions between Viagra and genetic diseases that cause blindness, and warned:

“We are concerned that people who have normal vision but who carry a single copy of the mutant gene for the blinding disease, Retinitis Pigmentosa, could be more susceptible to these changes. … These finding are highly significant because about one in 50 people are likely to be carriers of recessive genes which cause retinal disease but are unlikely to know this, because their vision is normal.”

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