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Viagra May Prevent Rare Lung Condition in Swimmers

CardioSmart News

The widely used drug Viagra may prevent a dangerous build-up of fluid in the lungs during swimming, according to a study published in the American Heart Association journal Circulation.

Swimming-induced pulmonary edema, referred to as SIPE, occurs when there’s excess fluid in the lungs during swimming. Often triggered by strenuous swimming in cold water, SIPE is a potentially fatal condition that affects roughly 1% of swimmers and divers. SIPE is especially concerning for many triathlon athletes, as competitions involve vigorous swimming in cold waters. However, little is known about the exact cause of SIPE and how to prevent it.

To learn more, researchers conducted a study with 30 young, healthy patients between 18 and 55 years old. Ten of the patients had a history of SIPE, while the remaining twenty did not.

For the first part of the study, participants exercised underwater for up to seven minutes, while researchers tracked blood pressure and other markers of health. Participants then repeated the process after taking Viagra, which helps treat high blood pressure in the lungs.

Researchers found that, overall, adults with a history of SIPE had higher blood pressure in the pulmonary artery during exercise than those without. However, Viagra appeared to reduce pulmonary artery pressure during exercise in adults with SIPE. After Viagra use, there were no differences in pulmonary artery blood pressure in either group. There were no adverse effects related to Viagra use among any of the participants.

What this shows, according to authors, is that SIPE is caused by issues with the heart. Additionally, heart drugs that treat blood pressure may be useful in SIPE prevention. Since patients with a history of SIPE are at increased risk for a future event, drugs like Viagra may prove useful in reducing risk. However, authors encourage future research to better understand the cause and prevention of SIPE in otherwise healthy individuals.

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