Since the debate about the safety of hormone replacement therapy began, researchers, patients, and clinicians have searched for a safe alternative to help alleviate the symptoms associated with menopause. Now, a small study in Italy suggests that dehydroepiandrosterone (DHEA) may be a solution.
Dr Andrea Genazzani, from the Department of Reproductive Medicine and Child Development, Division of Gynecology and Obstetrics at the University of Pisa, Italy, and colleagues conducted a randomized study to evaluate the impact of various interventions on the sexual health and well-being of early post-menopausal women. Genazzani et al. recruited 48 women between the ages of 50 and 60 who were postmenopausal and otherwise healthy. The women were randomized to receive either DHEA 10 mg daily, oral estradiol(Drug information on estradiol) 1 mg plus dihydrogesterone 5 mg daily, or oral tibolone(Drug information on tibolone) 2.5 mg daily for 12 months. Participants who refused hormonal treatment received oral vitamin D 400 IU. The McCoy Female Sexuality Questionnaire was used to help determine efficacy and was administered before treatment initiation and after 12 months. Hormonal profiles were evaluated prior to treatment and then again after 3, 6, and 12 months.
Based on the McCoy total scores, Genazzani et al. found that women who received hormone replacement therapy or DHEA reported greater improvement in sexual function at the end of the study as compared to their baseline function. In addition, those women who received hormone replacement therapy, DHEA, or tibolone all reported significant increases in the frequency of sexual intercourse. Genazzani and colleagues failed, however, to find any changes in McCoy scores in the women who received vitamin D.
The authors concluded, “Daily oral DHEA therapy at the dose of 10 mg, [hormone replacement therapy] HRT and tibolone all provided a significant improvement in comparison with vitamin D in sexual function and in frequency of sexual intercourse in early postmenopausal women.”
The study authors acknowledged that the study was small, but added that their results show that DHEA may hold promise for women who have problems taking more conventional hormone replacement treatments. They noted that further study of DHEA and its effects on menopause symptoms is warranted.
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