Fifteen Viagra Ups and Downs

Daniel Acker/Bloomberg via Getty Images(NEW YORK) -- It's been 15 years since Viagra took America by storm, quickly securing its place as one of the best-selling prescription drugs of all time.

"Viagra was a game-changer," said Dr. Ryan Terlecki, assistant professor of urology at Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center in Winston-Salem, N.C., recalling the not-so-distant days of injectable drugs and surgical implants for erectile dysfunction.  "It totally revolutionized men's sexual health, and men's health overall."

The little blue pill was originally designed to treat pulmonary hypertension -- a disease that causes tightness in the chest and shortness of breath.

"These guys started breathing better, but they said to their doctors, 'You'll never guess what else happened to me,'" Terlecki said.

In the 15 years since, Viagra has been tested in dozens of diseases, proving successful in some of the most dismal.

"Viagra is truly unique in the multitude of applications being explored, especially 15 years out," said Terlecki.  "It's one of those things that people wonder if we should be putting it in the water."

Here is a list of 15 "vitamin V" successes, failures and exciting prospects:

Muscular Dystrophy

Viagra might help protect the hearts of boys and men with Duchenne and Becker muscular dystrophy, a disease that causes progressive muscle weakness and heart disease.  The drug showed promise in mice and is currently being tested in patients.

Lung Disease

Developed to treat hypertension in the lungs, Viagra once held promise for people with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease or COPD.  But the drug failed in a clinical trial, worsening symptoms and quality of life.

Female Sexual Dysfunction

Despite its success in men, Viagra's effects in women have been tough to tease out.  The little blue pill might hold promise for women with sexual dysfunction secondary to multiple sclerosis, diabetes, spinal cord injury and antidepressant medications.

Altitude Sickness

Viagra can help you rise to the occasion, when mountain climbing, that is.  The drug has been shown to soften the symptoms of altitude sickness.

Athletic Performance

Chicago Bears' receiver Brandon Marshall raised eyebrows when he said some NFL players use Viagra as a performance enhancer.  While the drug has been proven to boost blood flow, its effects on athletic performance remain unclear.

Jet Lag

Viagra might help fight the effects of jet lag, according to a study in hamsters.  Rodents that were fed the little blue pill recovered 50 percent faster than their unmedicated friends after a shift in light-dark cycle.

Cold Extremities

Viagra can help fight the symptoms of Raynaud's phenomenon, a condition that causes arterial spasms that block blood flow to the fingers, toes, ears and nose.  Raynaud's can be caused by smoking, autoimmune disease and frostbite.

Cystic Fibrosis

Researchers are studying whether Viagra holds promise for cystic fibrosis, a disease that causes life-threatening lung damage.

IVF

For couples trying to conceive through in vitro fertilization, Viagra might help promote embryo implantation and improve the odds of pregnancy.

Heart Disease

Viagra dilates arteries and boosts blood flow, properties that could be beneficial in people with heart failure.  Clinical trials are underway.

Stroke

Viagra has been shown to fight the effects of stroke in rats, boosting neurological function and reducing mortality.  The little blue pill is now being tested in stroke patients.

Diabetes

Viagra might help fight the effects of diabetes, according to animal studies.  The drug improves the function of blood vessels, which are damaged by high blood sugar levels.

Schizophrenia

Researchers are investigating whether Viagra can improve mood symptoms and memory in people with schizophrenia, a disabling brain disorder.

Chronic Fatigue Syndrome

Researchers are currently studying whether Viagra can combat fatigue and boost blood flow to the brain in people with chronic fatigue syndrome.

Sleep Apnea

Viagra has been shown to aggravate sleep apnea, a disorder in which breathing repeatedly stops and starts throughout the night.

Copyright 2013 ABC News Radio

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