DHEA is an interesting, poorly understood hormone, which is why information on the symptoms of high DHEA levels in females (or the effects of adding DHEA to, or subtracting DHEA from, your body) is hard to find.
We have a few general ideas about how high levels of DHEA are correlated with certain diseases or disorders, and we also have some ideas about how low DHEA levels may result in a variety of symptoms, but again, none of this is particularly clear or certain at this point in time.
The science just isn’t there yet on this hormone.
That being said, it’s not like we don’t know anything about DHEA. Here’s a bit about what we know:
- DHEA is the most common hormone in the body
- DHEA is produced in the ovaries and the adrenal gland in females
- DHEA ranges between 13–380 ug/dL for women between the ages of 20–69
- DHEA is involved in sexual function for females, and supplementation of DHEA may help improve sexual function
- Low DHEA is associated with, and may be responsible for, panic attacks
- High DHEA levels are associated with PTSD in women
- DHEA may help with both obesity and insulin resistance
High DHEA Levels in Females — Symptoms and Associations
Because DHEA is a male hormone, many of the symptoms of high levels of DHEA look very similar to high levels of testosterone in females. But there’s more to it than that. DHEA is a sort of precursor hormone, a hormone that’s often converted in your body into other hormones.
This may be one reason that high DHEA levels can be so debilitating and have some of the same symptoms as high levels of testosterone or estrogen—because the conversion process is adding both of those hormones into your body.
So what do those symptoms look like? Some of the symptoms of high DHEA levels include the following:
- Hirsutism (excess hair growth and male hair growth patterns)
- Hair loss
- Aggressive behavior
- Trouble sleeping
- Acne and/or oily skin
But, truly, this is just the tip of the iceberg. High DHEA levels can be a very serious indicator of deeper, more profound problems:
- High DHEA levels in females are often associated with PCOS
- High levels of DHEA are also associated with a higher risk for breast cancer (here’s a second article on DHEA and breast cancer)
- High DHEA levels in females also may indicate an adrenal gland tumor or overactive adrenal glands
- High DHEA levels in females also seems to be associated with Cushing’s syndrome
So, What Does All This Mean?
One theme that ties together much of what we write is this: hormones require balance, hormones are integral to healthy functioning of your body, and when hormones become imbalanced, your body can react severely.
Whether we’re talking about the more-well-known hormones, like testosterone and estrogen, or some of the lesser-known hormones, like DHEA or progesterone, the theme remains sound; if your hormone levels are too high or too low for your body, you’re likely going to experience symptoms, and you would likely improve from getting those hormones back into balance.
In some cases, this can be done by treating the cause of the hormone imbalance. In other cases, there is no cure, and hormones need to be introduced from outside the body through hormone replacement therapy in order to bring hormone levels back to normal.
If you haven’t already, consider setting up a free consultation with one of our hormone therapy providers. We’ll discuss your symptoms and your options in a safe, supportive environment and talk about what, if anything, can or should be done next.
I look forward to hearing from you.
Augie Galindo, PA-C