Dehydroepiandrosterone, or DHEA, is a precursor to androgen hormones that are essential for sexual health and quality of life in women. Women suffering from decreased levels of DHEA have reported symptoms of decreased fatigue and diminished sexual desire. DHEA supplements may have beneficial effects on healthy hormone levels in women. Consult a physician before using DHEA as an alternative treatment for disease.
An estimated 40 percent of women suffer from sexual dysfunction due to decreases in androgens like DHEA, according to a review published in 2003 in the "Journal of Steroid Biochemistry and Molecular Biology." The review examined the effect of different androgens on women, and concluded that DHEA supplements improved libido, sexual function, mood and well-being in women. Other benefits of DHEA treatment examined included bone density preservation and cognition improvement. Another review published in 2002 in the "Journal of Fertility and Sterility" examined the effects of DHEA supplements and androgen therapy in women. In the study reviewed, female test participants were diagnosed with adrenal androgen deficiency syndrome, a disorder that is associated with low levels of DHEA. The results of tests reported that DHEA supplements significantly increased levels of DHEA and androgen in women. The women reported benefits of increased sexual desire and enhanced sexual satisfaction from DHEA. Reviews from both journals concluded that DHEA treatment still requires more research. Consultation with a health care provider is recommended before taking DHEA supplements.
The "Journal of Supportive Cancer Therapy" published a review in 2006 that examined the effects of DHEA as an alternative treatment for common menopausal symptoms. In the study reviewed, 28 females were given 50 mg of DHEA supplements once per day for up to four weeks. The results reported that DHEA significantly improved quality of life in women and reduced hot flashes after four weeks of therapy. No adverse side effects were reported and DHEA was well tolerated among test participants. The study concluded that larger and more controlled DHEA trials are needed.
MedlinePlus reports that DHEA supplements may be associated with hormonal-related side effects. In women, masculinization symptoms can occur such as facial hair, acne, weight gain and deeper voice. Individuals have reported other hormonal side effects like altered cholesterol, thyroid and adrenal hormone levels. The risk of developing breast or ovarian cancer may also increase from taking DHEA supplements, according to MedlinePlus.