A Postmenopausal Alternative to Estrogen

Intravaginal dehydroepiandrosterone (DHEA) for postmenopausal women may ease symptoms

/ Author:  / Reviewed by: Beth Bolt, RPh

(RxWiki News) For postmenopausal women, estrogen may not be the only viable option for easing symptoms.

Another option could be intravaginal dehydroepiandrosterone (DHEA), a new study found. This drug appeared to reduce vaginal symptoms and sexual discomfort in postmenopausal women.

Menopause is the natural decrease in reproductive hormones when women hit their 40s or 50s. Although menopause is perfectly natural, the symptoms — which can include vaginal dryness and sexual discomfort — can be painful and reduce overall quality of life for some women.

A commonly prescribed medication to treat these symptoms is intravaginal estrogen. But some women avoid this medication because of concern over estrogen-sensitive cancers like breast cancer. But DHEA is not tied to this risk.

"That means that intravaginal DHEA avoids the raised hormone levels that might stimulate breast tissue or the lining of the uterus, which are concerns for women at risk of estrogen-sensitive cancers, or cancer recurrence, in these organs," said North American Menopause Society Executive Director JoAnn V. Pinkerton, MD, NCMP, in a press release. "Women who have been treated for these cancers often have severe vulvovaginal symptoms and need safe and effective treatment options."

DHEA did appear effective in this phase III trial of 482 postmenopausal women. The 325 study patients who received DHEA reported significant symptom improvements after 12 weeks — compared to the 157 women who received a placebo. The patients taking DHEA cited reductions in pain during intercourse. They also showed slowed thinning of the vaginal lining and reductions in dryness.

This study was published Jan. 5 in the journal Menopause. EndoCeutics funded this research. Conflict of interest disclosures were not available at the time of publication.

Reviewed by: 
Review Date: 
January 7, 2016
Last Updated:
January 11, 2016