DHEA - A New Idea for Relief of Vaginal Atrophy After Menopause

Categories: Newest Treatments, MomDocs Online, Female Sexual Health, Menopause, Gynecology

Categories: Newest Treatments, MomDocs Online, Female Sexual Health, Menopause, Gynecology


There is good news for many women who suffer from vaginal dryness and painful intercourse.  A study published in the journal, Menopause (Volume 16, Sept/Oct, 2009), explores the idea of treating this condition with vaginal inserts containing DHEA.  

DHEA is produced by the adrenal cortex, and serum levels peak around the age of 30 years, declining by an average of 60% by the time of menopause.  DHEA is an inactive molecule alone, and is transformed into estrogens and androgens only in tissues that possess certain enzymes required for the conversion.  As a result, there is minimal or no release of active hormones into the blood.  The estrogens and androgens are inactivated in the same cells in which they are formed, and released in the blood in the inactive form to be eliminated.

The authors performed a large, placebo-controlled randomized clinical trial in which postmenopausal women suffering from vaginal atrophy were given daily DHEA or placebo in a vaginal insert for 3 months.  A rapid improvement of all symptoms and signs of vaginal atrophy was seen, with no change in circulating estradiol or testosterone.  An added benefit was the finding of a significant improvement in sexual function – desire, arousal, and orgasm.  No negative side effects were observed.  

This treatment has major implications for all post-menopausal women, and especially those who have had breast cancer, as the vaginal atrophy may be addressed without the risk of increasing exposure to estrogen.  This is also good news for those with a uterus, as there seems to be no increased risk of endometrial exposure to estrogen with this therapy.  This is a new idea, and oncologists must approve DHEA administration on a case-by-case basis for those with a history of breast cancer, but it is an exciting concept.  Please talk to us if you are interested.