Vaginal atrophy is a common symptom of postmenopausal estrogen deficiency and can present as dryness, irritation, infection and dyspareunia and can affect sexual function and quality of life. Currently vaginal atrophy is treated with the intravaginal application of preparations containing estradiol or estriol, which are both effective and safe. It has been proposed that intravaginally administered dehydroepiandrosterone (DHEA) can be used to treat vaginal atrophy. DHEA and its sulphate DHEAS are the most abundant circulating sex steroid hormones in women, and provide a large precursor reservoir for the intracellular production of androgens and estrogens in non-reproductive tissues. Levels of DHEA and DHEAS decline with age. Although there is some evidence to support the use of intravaginal DHEA for postmenopausal women with symptoms of vaginal atrophy, independent studies are required to confirm this. In addition studies regarding the effects of vaginal DHEA on sexual function in women without vaginal atrophy are needed. Given that the efficacy and long term safety of low dose vaginal estradiol and estriol therapy is well established and that vaginal estrogen requires application of 2-3 times a week, rather than daily dosing; the benefit of daily vaginal DHEA over estrogen also needs to be considered as women may find it unpalatable to adhere to daily dosing with a cream preparation.
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