DHEA, which stands for dehydroepiandrosterone, is basically a hormone which is produced naturally in the adrenal glands of the body. It is also present as a dietary supplement. DHEA enables the formation of male as well as female sex hormones, but the amount of DHEA in the body slowly decreases with age.
However, these dietary supplements must only be utilized under the guidance of a professional health care provider.
Higher doses than the recommended dosage can prove to be toxic to liver cells and may cease the natural production of DHEA in the body.
DHEA may also decrease HDL (“good”) cholesterol levels, as well as lead to insulin resistance in certain circumstances.
DHEA is also available as a nutritional supplement in several health stores as well as in pharmacies, and marketed under a variety of effects ranging from enhancement of muscle-building performance to boosting of the immune system.
What is DHEA used for?
DHEA supplements help athletes as a way of building muscle strength and enhancing better performance. It is also useful to treat specific deficiencies and essential health conditions which affect men when they become older.
DHEA supplements also improve loss of memory and slow down the aging process.
Moreover, they are used to improve mood, immunity and heighten the sense of well-being.
DHEA also helps in decreasing the risks of facing heart attacks, especially in men, particularly if they are below 70 years old. DHEA is also helpful in curing erectile dysfunction due to its androgenic properties.
Bone loss in men is caused due to the loss of androgen during aging. This results in decreased bone mineral density and bone formation. Doses of DHEA improve bone mineral density in men with pre-existing osteoporosis, but not in otherwise healthy men over 60 years of age. DHEA increases skin thickness, improves skin hydration, and decreases facial skin pigmentation. DHEA is often used to treat symptoms associated with Alzheimer’s disease and to improve cognitive functioning.
The use of DHEA to improve bone mineral density appears safe in elderly men. Women who have crossed their period of menopause use DHEA inside their vagina in order to strengthen the walls of the vagina and increase bone mineral density.
What are the common side effects of DHEA?
Like other supplements, several side effects can occur while taking DHEA supplements using DHEA for longer periods of time elevates the risk of facing these side effects.
Common side effects include fatigue, common headache, congestion, formation of acne, irregular heartbeats, and conditions of upset stomach and problems of high blood pressure.
Allergic reactions may occur in some individuals who use DHEA. Such individuals should avoid taking DHEA supplements. Long term uses of DHEA may also cause cancer in some patients.
DHEA might worsen liver problems. Therefore, if you have liver problems, you must consult your healthcare provider before taking these supplements.
DHEA can affect how insulin works in the body. If a person has diabetes, he or she must monitor their blood sugar level carefully whilst taking DHEA.
Patients who have a history of depression and bipolar disorder might face certain mental side effects while using DHEA. Furthermore, DHEA can lead to mania, irritability, and sexual inappropriateness in people with mood disorders.
Additionally, people who take DHEA supplements might be more likely to develop blood clots, therefore, people with clotting disorders, heart disease and those with a history of experiencing strokes must avoid the intake of DHEA supplements.
What are the side effects of DHEA on children?
As the bodies of children and adolescents have increased amounts of naturally occurring DHEA, they must refrain from taking DHEA supplements. Taking DHEA supplements can lead to abnormal high levels of DHEA and sex hormones may persist in a child’s body, and this may result in premature puberty occurrence, stunted growth and a high risk for prostrate, uterine, ovarian or breast cancers.
For prepubertal boys, the intake of DHEA supplements may result in acne, considerably early growing pubic hair, penis enlargement and continuing erections.
What are the side effects of DHEA on men?
DHEA supplements may lead to a rise in the production of testosterone, which is a male hormone in the body. In men, an increased level of testosterone may result in potential side effects such as feelings of aggression, baldness and testicle shrinkage.
Men with family histories of different types of hormone-related cancers, for example, prostate cancer, should refrain from using DHEA since the effects of the hormone bring forward an increased risk for the occurrence of these diseases.
Moreover, men below 40 years should try to avoid taking in DHEA, since there is a greater risk of side effects in men whose body still produces large amounts of the hormone.
In men, Androgens enable the stimulation of prostate cancer that do have it already but has not been diagnosed as yet. Additionally, the prostate gland can become enlarged.
Frequent or continued erection of penis, agonizing penile erections, occasional urinating urge, and itching of the skin are common symptoms.
What are the side effects of DHEA on women?
In women, DHEA supplements can lead to masculinisation. This may include hair growth on the face and unusual hair loss on the head, voice deepening, and increase in the size of female genitals, weight gain, acne and menstrual cycle changes. Many of these changes will disappear once the intake of the medicine is ceased. However, several changes, such as changes in voice or enlargement of the clitoris, might not completely come to an end.
For women who have a condition of Polycystic Ovary Syndrome (PCOS), the intake of DHEA might make this condition worse. Endogenous DHEA may play a role in the development of PCOS.
Furthermore, women with breast, ovarian and uterine cancers, should avoid using DHEA supplements. The long term use of DHEA may increase the risk of developing hormone related cancer like breast cancer, prostate cancer and ovarian cancer
What are the side effects of DHEA on pregnant women?
Women who are pregnant or breastfeeding should not take DHEA. DHEA supplementation is not safe to be taken during pregnancy as studies have shown it to cause miscarriage. It should also not be used by breastfeeding mothers. DHEA can cause higher than normal levels of a male hormone called androgen which may prove be harmful to the baby.
Before you plan to take any supplement always study its side effects, especially when you are pregnant.
What are the side effects of DHEA on the elderly?
For bedridden elderly, males or females, confusion, hallucinations, mental depression, constipation, heightened thirst, increased amount of urine or uncontrollable urge to urinate, might result.