NEW ORLEANS — Postmenopausal women are more than twice as likely to experience sexual dysfunction as are younger women, and their risk also is doubled if they have low levels of dehydroepiandrosterone (DHEA), according to new data from the Penn Ovarian Aging Study.
“Higher levels of DHEA appear to be protective in this population,” said Dr. Clarisa R. Gracia, who presented the findings at the annual meeting of the American Society for Reproductive Medicine. “This raises the question about whether supplementation is an option—although there is no evidence to support this at this time,” she commented at a press conference during the meeting.
The Penn Ovarian Aging Study, which included more than 400 healthy women aged 35–47 years, aimed to examine the natural progression of ovarian function during the transition to menopause.
Women were followed for 3 years with questionnaires, including the Female Sexual Function Index, and annual measurement of reproductive hormones including follicle-stimulating hormone, luteinizing hormone, sex hormone-binding globulin, total testosterone, and DHEA.
This analysis of the study included 311 women—102 with sexual dysfunction and 209 without. Women with sexual dysfunction were twice as likely to have DHEA levels in the lowest quartile, with an average measurement of 66.5 mcg/dL compared with an average measurement of 81.1 mcg/dL in those without sexual dysfunction. No significant associations were noted between the other measured hormones and sexual dysfunction, according to Dr. Gracia of the University of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia.
Multivariate analysis revealed that high DHEA levels were protective against sexual dysfunction, while factors associated with sexual dysfunction included absence of a sexual partner (OR 11.2), high anxiety (OR 3.8), and children under age of 18 living at home (OR 1.6), she said.