Debates about DHEA and its deficiency, are still going on. Here is a brief overview about the hormone and the symptoms caused by its deficiency.
Dehydroepiandrosterone (DHEA) is a steroid hormone produced in the human body. Primarily made in the adrenal glands, DHEA is also produced in very small amounts in the ovaries, testes, and the brain. This hormone is said to be the precursor of sex hormones, like testosterone and estrogen. However, there is no scientific evidence to prove the role of DHEA in production of sex hormones. It is believed that, either DHEA is transformed to sex hormones or is used by the human body to produce sex hormones. It is an essential hormone in the body, and variations in DHEA level are associated with certain symptoms.
Normally, the level of DHEA in the human body is found to be at its peak, during the early adulthood. It steadily declines with increasing age. Studies regarding the symptoms of age-related DHEA deficiency are still underway. However, some people develop this condition at a very young age, due to adrenal insufficiency and other problems. Such deficiency is mostly found in people having type 2 diabetes, anorexia, and severe kidney disease. Use of certain medication, like insulin, corticosteroids, and opiates, is also linked to low DHEA symptoms. Other medical conditions that are linked to this deficiency are erectile dysfunction, Crohn’s disease, ulcerative colitis, lupus, schizophrenia, osteoporosis, Alzheimer’s disease, and chronic fatigue syndrome.
In short, it is suggested that, deficiency of DHEA could be either due to increasing age or due to some other problems. Enlisted below are some of the DHEA deficiency symptoms.
- Loss of libido, especially in women
- Memory problems
- Joint pain
- Extreme fatigue
- Weakened immune system
- Increased sensitivity to noise
- Loss of muscle and bone mass
- Dry eyes, skin, and hair
- Hair loss (including axial and pubic ones)
- Erectile dysfunction
As DHEA deficiency is said to be a contributory factor for various medical conditions, like cardiovascular diseases, diabetes, rheumatoid arthritis, fibromyalgia, etc., the symptoms have to be diagnosed and treated.
Low level of DHEA is diagnosed with relevant blood tests. If the test result shows less than 180 nanograms per deciliter in males and 130 nanograms per deciliter in females, then the person is said to have DHEA deficiency. Symptoms of DHEA deficiency are often treated with supplements, that too for a stipulated period. It is very important to stick to the instructions of the doctor, regarding the dosage and use. Overuse of these supplements may cause liver problems, certain types of cancer, menstrual problems, hypertension, and abnormal growth of body hair.
You may get DHEA supplements from drug stores, in the form of capsules, tablets, chewing gum, and topical creams; but don’t use them without consulting your health care provider. Drug interactions are also possible with these supplements. Even wild yam and soy products are said to contain DHEA, but there is no evidence to prove that consumption of these foods is useful for raising DHEA levels.
Nowadays, DHEA supplements are used for various purposes, like improving memory, countering the signs of aging, curing erectile dysfunction, boosting the immune system, alleviating menopause symptoms, and for easing depression and fatigue. While these supplements were used by athletes for increasing stamina, authorities have banned such use. Use these supplements as per the instructions of the doctor, after diagnosing your symptoms. The best method to increase DHEA naturally; is regular exercise, along with calorie restriction and proper stress management.
Disclaimer: This article is for informational purposes only and should not be used as a replacement for expert medical advice. Visiting your physician is the safest way to diagnose and treat any health condition.