DHEA and Men’s Health

What is DHEA?

Dehydroepiandrosterone, also known as DHEA, is a hormone produced by your body’s adrenal glands. We are still learning about what DHEA does, but we do know that it is a precursor to male and female sex hormones, mainly testosterone and estrogen.

DHEA production peaks in your mid-20s and gradually declines with age. DHEA levels may drop to less than 20% of their peak value over the next 40 to 60 years of your life. Low levels are linked to several conditions, such as depression and sexual dysfunction.

It is a precursor to male and female sex hormones, mainly testosterone and estrogen

A DHEA-S (DHEA-sulfate) blood test is done to check whether your adrenal glands are working well. It measures the amount of DHEA-S in your bloodstream. No special preparation is necessary, however you should tell your provider if you are taking any vitamins or supplements that contain DHEA or DHEA-sulfate prior to the test.

What are the benefits of DHEA?

    • Strengthening the immune system
    • Slowing natural aging
    • Increased energy
    • Improving mood and memory
    • Building bone and muscle strength

can you take DHEA?

If you are suffering from low DHEA levels you can take DHEA in topical cream and oral tablet forms, including over-the-counter dietary supplements like menMD’s Testosterone Support which features DHEA among its six all-natural ingredients.

Does DHEA help with Erectile Function and Libido?

Some evidence shows that DHEA increases libido and helps treating erectile dysfunction in men. DHEA can lead to improved libido as it may increase your free testosterone levels. Studies have shown that taking high doses improves erectile dysfunction by stimulating blood vessels to open wider for improved blood flow.

Improves erectile dysfunction by stimulating blood vessels to open wider

A randomized control study looking at the role of DHEA in erectile function found that DHEA treatment was associated with higher mean scores for all five domains of the International Index of Erectile Function (IIEF), a questionnaire, used to rate the success of erectile dysfunction therapies. Although studies suggest that DHEA helps improve erectile function, the studies aren’t robust enough so the consensus is still out. Further studies need to be performed to truly link DHEA and improved erectile function.

Can DHEA help with Depressive Symptoms?

Studies suggest that depression may lead to poor regulation of DHEA, thus decreasing its levels. If DHEA levels are in fact low, supplementation with DHEA can improve mood and outlook on life.

Supplementation with DHEA can improve mood and outlook on life

Currently, there is very little scientific evidence to support DHEA supplementation for increasing testosterone levels. Several smaller scientific studies have shown that DHEA may help stimulate testosterone production and offer a range of benefits.

One published study looked at eight middle-aged men who were given a DHEA supplement the night before completing a high-intensity interval training exercise program. Results revealed that use of DHEA supplements appeared to increase testosterone levels and prevent those levels from declining during exercise.

Side effects of DHEA

The long-term safety of DHEA hasn’t been well established, however, some side effects linked to DHEA may include:

    • Acne
    • Mania
    • Oily skin
    • Heart palpitations
    • Reduced HDL cholesterol
    • Male-pattern hair growth in women

NCAA and WADE Banned

Please be aware if you are a professional or collegiate athlete competing under World Anti-Doping Agency or National Collegiate Athlete Association rules, both include DHEA on their banned substance lists.


DHEA declines by as much as 80% from peak levels as you age. Your provider may order a blood test if you are suffering from low DHEA levels. DHEA supplementation is available in over-the-counter topical creams and oral tablets. Although DHEA has many functions in your body, many of these functions still aren’t very well understood. More studies are needed to better understand DHEA – a precursor to the body’s production of two important hormones, testosterone and estrogen.


Justin Houman, M.D.

Justin Houman, M.D.

Tower Urology

8635 West 3rd Street, Suite 1 West
Los Angeles, CA 90048
Phone: (310) 854-9898
Fax. (310) 854-0267