Dehydroepiandrosterone, more commonly referred to as DHEA, is the most prolific pro-hormone in the body and starts to decrease from around the age of 30, matching the signs and symptoms of ageing and one’s susceptibility to disease.
DHEA converts into essential hormones – testosterone and estrogen – as required by the body and increases energy and enhances the feeling of vitality.
Its main site of production in the body are the adrenal glands which are our back up power source for these hormones i.e. testosterone and estrogen after menopause. When the ovaries are dialling down the adrenal glands take on the entire load of producing these hormones.
However, when our mind or body is under acute or prolonged stress for any reason, then the adrenal glands focus on the flight or fright pathway that leads to cortisol production. This, in turn, reduces our natural source of oestrogen and testosterone from DHEA breakdown.
During menopause whether or not we have suffered any hot flushes or night sweats: we will suffer vaginal dryness together with thinning and fragility of the vaginal mucosa. This is the commonest cause of discomfort during sex and recurrent urinary tract infections in this age group.
Up until this week, topical estrogen in the form of vaginal pessaries and cream were the only prescribed treatments in the UK to restore vaginal health and help with the above symptoms. The British Menopause Annual conference 2019 saw the launch of a new DHEA product Intrarosa® Prasterone 6.5 mg vaginal suppositories. It is already being used in the USA, Europe, Australia, and Russia.
The availability of DHEA vaginal suppositories in the UK will give clinicians and women another option that can be utilised for the beneficial effects of both topical estrogen and testosterone in menopause-related vaginal symptoms.