Symptoms Of Low DHEA & The Side Effects Of Taking DHEA Supplements

DHEA, or dehydroepiandrosterone, is a hormone which is naturally produced in abundance by the body’s adrenal gland. It also works to make other female and male sex hormones within the body. DHEA plays a crucial role in smoothly carrying out many metabolic functions and hence an individual can have plenty of adverse effects if there is a depravation of DHEA. However, once an individual crosses the age of 30, the DHEA levels in the body starts to decrease due to low production, which leads to variety of health issues affecting almost the whole body. Read on to know what are the presenting features of low DHEA & What are the side effects of taking DHEA supplements.

Symptoms of Low DHEA

Unless, a person finds a way of boosting their DHEA level, the symptoms of low DHEA appear quickly. These symptoms are easily noticeable as they completely change most aspects of the individual’s life. Some of the common presenting features of low DHEA are:

Low Libido

A common symptom of low DHEA is decreased libido. Inability to have a satisfying sex life or having lost interest in sex may point towards low DHEA levels. DHEA supports the production of hormones responsible for a satisfying sexual performance and increasing interest in sex. At times it can be associated directly with estrogen or testosterone, but a connection with DHEA is possible if other symptoms are noticed together with this problems. Women suffering from loss of libido can use DHEA cream which can be applied in the vagina for instant relief.


Decreased levels of DHEA can lead to persistent fatigue and lethargy. This is again mainly due to depravation of sex hormones. His coupled with bone density loss, loss of muscle mass, and a compromised immune system causes the individual to feel weak and tired. People with decreased levels of DHEA will feel tired even after having a good night’s sleep and may remain tired and fatigued throughout the day.

Frequent Mood Swings and Depression

Low DHEA does not just affect the overall health of an individual but also causes mental health problems as well. Reduced DHEA affects the overall hormonal balance resulting in frequent mood swings and periods of depression. Although there are many factors that may cause depression in an individual, DHEA levels can be the culprit if the depression is associated with certain other symptoms. So depression and mood swings are some of the symptoms resulting from a low DHEA.

Compromised Immunity

Low DHEA causes the immune system become weak, which in turn causes a variety of health problems like infections, allergies and inflammation. Diseases like diarrhea, nausea, and loss of appetite also tend to occur easily low immunity resulting from low DHEA.

Weight Gain

Weight gain due to slow metabolism is another symptom of low DHEA. Adequate levels of DHEA causes metabolism to be smooth and quick. So, people having decreased levels of DHEA have slower than normal metabolism implying that they are not able to burn the calories which then gets stored in the body as fat resulting in weight gain. If nothing is done to counter this problem, it can lead to other physical and emotional health issues too.

Joint Pain

People suffering from constant pain in the joints can experience aggravation of their problem because of decreased levels of DHEA. Due to the decreased DHEA levels, the fibrous tissues of joints start degenerating with age, and cause the bones to rub against each other causing pain. The worsening of this problem can be prevented by increasing the DHEA levels.

DHEA is helpful when taken orally, applied on the skin, and used properly inside the vagina. DHEA can be safely taken by mouth for up to 2 years, applied on the skin as cream for up to 1 year, or used as vaginal inserts for used for up to 3 months. To cure DHEA deficit in the body, many people commonly use DHEA supplements, made from wild yam or soy, to slow the signs of aging, improve physical performance, increase sex drive, build muscles, and treat many other conditions. However, DHEA can be unsafe when taken orally in high doses or consumed for long-term. DHEA should not be used in doses higher than 50-100 mg a day and neither should be taken for a long duration. Using higher doses or prolonged usage of DHEA supplements can increase the chance of potentially serious side effects.

Side Effects of Taking DHEA Supplements

Generally, DHEA has mild side effects like upset stomach and acne. Women can experience side effects of DHEA supplements like abnormal hair growth, changes in menstrual cycle, and a deeper voice after taking DHEA. Men on the other hand can have breast pain or growth.

DHEA supplements should not be taken by women during pregnancy or when breast-feeding. Since DHEA supplements can raise the level of the male hormone called androgen, above normal, it can be harmful for the baby. In men with an enlarged prostate, DHEA can cause difficulty in urinating. This condition is called benign prostatic hypertrophy. DHEA can influence the manner in which insulin works in the body. So diabetics should monitor their blood sugar carefully if taking DHEA. This hormone can also affect the manner in which estrogen works in the body. People suffering from hormone sensitive conditions like breast cancer, ovarian cancer, uterine cancer, uterine fibroids, and endometriosis, which can get worse by estrogen, should not use DHEA supplements. DHEA supplements can lower HDL in the body and so it should not be taken by people with problem of high cholesterol or heart disease. DHEA supplements can worsen liver problems and polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS) and should thus be avoided by individuals suffering from these conditions. DHEA supplements can cause impulsiveness, excitability, and irritability in people with mood disorders. Ones having mood disorder should consult a doctor before taking DHEA supplements.

Pramod Kerkar, M.D., FFARCSI, DA
Pramod Kerkar, M.D., FFARCSI, DA
Written, Edited or Reviewed By: Pramod Kerkar, M.D., FFARCSI, DA Pain Assist Inc. This article does not provide medical advice. See disclaimer
Last Modified On:November 30, 2018

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