Sildenafil, the drug more commonly known as Viagra, may help with more than just sexual problems. Researchers say it can also ease the symptoms of altitude sickness. The finding could be significant because in severe cases, altitude sickness can cause dangerously high pulmonary arterial pressures and pulmonary edema, putting sufferers at significant risk of death.
The study was conducted among 12 healthy men who were exposed to an altitude of about 14,000 feet. All were measured for physiological functioning at sea level and then again soon after arriving at a high altitude region in Europe. All the men showed some signs of elevated systolic pulmonary artery pressure after arriving at the high altitude region. Researchers then randomly assigned half the group to three daily doses of sildenafil. The other half received a placebo for comparison purposes.
Results show sildenafil normalized systolic pulmonary artery pressure and men taking the placebo continued to have higher pressures. Researchers also noted no significant adverse effects in the men taking sildenafil thus they say that sildenafil may have a role to play in preventing altitude sickness.