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Sexual Function


Sexual Function / Libido / Erectile Dysfunction

DHEA is converted into testosterone, which is known to enhance libido in both men and women. This helps to explain why so many people report heightened sexual desire after they begin taking DHEA supplements. But there may be more to DHEA’s enhancement of sexual desire and performance than simply raising testosterone levels. Because taking DHEA raises the levels of all adrenal hormones, it tends to make people feel more energetic, and enhances feelings of well-being in general. It also tends to improve overall heath, and anything that improves physical health and well-being is likely to reflect positively on one’s sexual health as well.

The results of studies vary on the use of DHEA in erectile dysfunction and sexual function, in both men and women. Still, other studies have shown that DHEA may be an effective therapy for erectile dysfunction. Although there are conflicting studies in this regard, a few have shown that among men without heart or vascular disease, DHEA has been able to improve erectile dysfunction.


Clinical Studies

  • Center For Sexual Function, Lahey Clinic Northshore, One Essex Center Drive, Peabody, MA 01960, USA.
     Much more information is available concerning decreased libido in postmenopausal than in premenopausal women.
    Even less is known about androgen deficiency in younger women. In a study, the total and free testosterone levels were measured in 12 consecutive premenopausal women complaining of decreased libido. Of the 12 women, 8 had low or immeasurable levels of testosterone despite having regular menstrual periods. Androgen precursor hormones, DHEA-S and Androstenedione, were low-normal to high-normal. Treatment with oral DHEA, 50 to 100 mg per day, restored sexual desire in 6 of the 8 women, gave partial improvement in one, and failed in another. Possible significance and etiological mechanism are discussed.

  • Center for Sexual Function, Lahey Clinic Northshore, One Essex Center Drive, Peabody, MA 01960, USA.
    A prior study has shown that premenopausal women could have decreased testosterone levels and still have regular menstrual cycles. Since ovarian function in such women was normal, the question of a possible adrenal dysfunction causing androgen deficiency was considered. If this was true, the question then arose as to whether the same defect could be seen in postmenopausal women. A study was conducted with 105 women who presented during a 6-month period of time with the chief complaint of decreased sexual desire. On subsequent testing, 74 of the women (70%) were found to have decreased total testosterone, free testosterone, and dehydroepiandrosterone sulfate (DHEA-S). Thirty-six of these women were premenopausal (ages range 24-50 years), and 38 were postmenopausal (ages range 47-78 years). All androgen levels for the women were lower than age-matched control groups found in the literature. The decreased DHEA-S levels suggest a defect in adrenal steroidogenesis, which was seen in both premenopausal and postmenopausal women.

  • Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences, University of Washington, Seattle, Washington.
    The age-related decline of dehydroepiandrosterone (DHEA) has prompted research on its experimental replacement in women. Although no relationship to sexual functioning in healthy women has been shown to date, DHEA replacement has potential for affecting sexual response. To investigate DHEA effects, 16 sexually functional postmenopausal women participated in a randomized, double-blind, crossover protocol in which oral administration of DHEA (300 mg) or placebo occurred 60 minutes before the presentation of an erotic video segment. Blood DHEA sulfate (DHEAS) changes, subjective and physiological sexual responses, as well as affective responses were measured in response to videotaped neutral and erotic video segments. The concentration of DHEAS increased 2-5-fold following DHEA administration in all 16 women. Subjective ratings across DHEA and placebo conditions showed significantly greater mental (p < 0.016) and physical (p < 0.036) sexual arousal to the erotic video with DHEA vs. placebo. Positive affect also increased during the erotic video across drug conditions. Vaginal pulse amplitude (VPA) and vaginal blood volume (VBV) demonstrated a significant increase (p < 0.001) between neutral and erotic film segments within both conditions (DHEA and placebo) but did not differentiate drug conditions. In sum, increases in mental and physical sexual arousal ratings significantly increased in response to an acute dose of DHEA in postmenopausal women.



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