DHEA therapy for women: effect on sexual function and wellbeing

Mary Panjari, Susan Ruth Davis

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87 Citations (Scopus)


DHEA is increasingly available commercially as a supplement aimed at improving libido and wellbeing in postmenopausal women. However there is scant evidence to support the use of DHEA for this purpose, and safety data for DHEA therapy are lacking. Dehydroepiandrosterone (DHEA) and its sulphate DHEAS are the most abundant circulating sex steroid hormones in women, providing a large precursor reservoir for the intracellular production of androgens and oestrogens in non-reproductive tissues. Levels of DHEA and DHEAS decline with age. It has been proposed that restoring the circulating levels of these steroids to those found in young people may have anti-ageing effects and improve wellbeing and sexual function. However this is not supported by the published literature. We have reviewed the physiology of DHEA and DHEAS in women and the published literature pertaining to the use of DHEA therapy for libido and wellbeing in postmenopausal women. The literature was searched using Medline (Ovid) and Pub-Med for original studies. Overall, the interpretation of data from randomised controlled trials conducted in well women is limited by inadequate sample size and short treatment durations with inconsistent results for the outcomes of libido and wellbeing. Studies of DHEA in women with adrenal insufficiency, although indicating potential improvements in mood and libido, are also limited by their short treatment phase durations. In addition safety data for DHEA therapy are lacking. The potential value of DHEA therapy for women still requires exploration in adequately powered well-designed randomised placebo-controlled trials. The studies of DHEA therapy in women with adrenal insufficiency suggest that this group is the most likely to derive health benefits from DHEA supplementation.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)239 - 248
Number of pages10
JournalHuman Reproduction Update
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 2007

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