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Raj Singh MD
September 7, 2023

Can DHEA improve systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE) symptoms?

DHEA improve systemic lupus erythematosus

Wondering if DHEA improve systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE) symptoms. SLE stands for Systemic Lupus Erythematosus, a chronic autoimmune disease that can affect various body parts, including the skin, joints, kidneys, heart, lungs, and brain.

In people with SLE, the immune system becomes overactive and attacks healthy tissues and organs, leading to inflammation and tissue damage. This can cause many symptoms, including fever, fatigue, joint pain and stiffness, skin rashes, hair loss, chest pain, shortness of breath, and neurological problems.


DHEA stands for Dehydroepiandrosterone, a hormone produced by the adrenal glands. It is a precursor to the sex hormones estrogen and testosterone, meaning the body can convert DHEA into these hormones.

DHEA levels in the body peak in early adulthood and then decline with age. Some studies suggest that low DHEA levels may be associated with systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE), and DHEA could be a potential treatment for improving some of the lupus symptoms.

Studies have shown that DHEA levels can be decreased in people with lupus, particularly those with active disease. This is thought to be due to the chronic inflammation and immune dysregulation characteristic of lupus.

Low DHEA levels in people with lupus have been associated with various health problems, including depression, cognitive impairment, and bone loss. Some studies have suggested that supplementing with DHEA may help improve these symptoms, although more research is needed to fully understand the effects of DHEA supplementation in people with lupus.

There is some evidence to suggest that DHEA supplementation may suppress the synthesis of interleukin 10 (IL-10) in women with systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE). IL-10 is an anti-inflammatory cytokine that helps regulate the immune response, and low levels of IL-10 have been associated with increased disease activity and organ damage in SLE.

Another study found that in women with lupus, those who took oral prasterone (DHEA) at a dosage of 200 mg once daily could reduce their prednisone dosage to 7.5 mg/day or less for a sustained period of time while still maintaining stabilization or a reduction of disease activity. This was compared to women who took a placebo. The results showed that a significantly greater proportion of patients treated with prasterone were able to achieve this goal.

Systemic corticosteroid administration, such as prednisone, can affect DHEA levels in the body. Corticosteroids can suppress the adrenal gland's production of DHEA, leading to lower DHEA levels.

DHEA Orphan Drug Status

FDA has granted orphan drug status to DHEA for the prevention of loss of bone mineral density in SLE patients taking glucocorticoids. FDA is requesting additional Phase III trial data for the treatment of SLE and the prevention of loss of bone mineral density. Discuss with your primary care physican if you have additional questions regarding DHEA effectiveness in lupus patients.

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