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Women: Talk to your doctors (2-12-02)

Physicians may have a simple treatment for female sexual dysfunction

Nearly 40 percent of all women suffer from some degree of sexual dysfunction. But a trip to the doctor may yield an over-the-counter therapy for many women.

Physicians at The University of Texas Health Science Center at San Antonio (UTHSC) are treating women with the supplement dehydroepiandrosterone (DHEA). DHEA is an androgen precursor, or hormone, known to play a role in normal sexual function.

"The major complaint we find in women is an arousal disorder. A large percentage of women with this disorder are androgen deficient," said LeRoy Jones, M.D., assistant professor of surgery in the division of urology at UTHSC and head of the section of sexual medicine. "We can use DHEA to raise androgen levels to a more normal range."

Dr. Jones said DHEA is sold in grocery and drug stores for about 20 cents a pill. Even though anyone can purchase it over the counter, he warns that patients should not take the hormone without consulting a doctor.

"DHEA can have serious side effects. We want to make sure patients have low androgen levels before we put them on a hormone replacement program," Dr. Jones said.

He also said patients need to take the right brand. "DHEA initially came out as a supplement to promote vitality and happiness. Because it is a supplement, it isn't regulated — some brands don't have any of the hormone in them," Dr. Jones said.

Dr. Jones is one of the nation's leading experts in female sexual dysfunction. He is developing a regional center to diagnose and treat both male and female sexual dysfunction.

Contact: Amanda Gallagher or Aileen Salinas