The Benefits of Prasterone and DHEA for Lupus

Prasterone is a synthetic version of dehydroepiandrosterone (DHEA), which is an endogenous hormone—this means that it is naturally produced by the human body. The synthetic version has been considered a potential treatment for lupus, although the use of DHEA in lupus is not FDA-approved.

Prasterone is a supplement that might be beneficial as a complementary treatment for lupus. Studies looking at the effect of DHEA on lupus symptoms have yielded mixed results, with some showing no improvement and others showing modest improvement in health-related quality of life.

Older woman taking her daily medicine
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Taking Prasterone

DHEA is a precursor hormone that is inactive in the precursor form and can be converted to active forms. DHEA is converted to sex hormones such as androgens and estrogens. Amounts in the body begin to decrease in a person typically after age 30.

People who have lupus sometimes have abnormally low levels of DHEA. Additionally, corticosteroids, which are sometimes used to treat lupus, can decrease a person’s DHEA levels.

Prasterone comes in tablet form. It can also come in as a topical cream or by injection. Dosage varies. If your healthcare provider recommends it for you, they will determine your dosing regimen.

Possible Side Effects

Typical side effects may include:

  • Nausea
  • Abdominal discomfort
  • Fatigue
  • Nasal congestion
  • Headache
  • Acne
  • Rapid/irregular heartbeats
  • Abnormal menses
  • Emotional changes
  • Headache
  • Insomnia

Serious Side Effects

If you have abnormal heart rhythms, blood clots, or hypercoagulability (a tendency for blood to clot), you should avoid prasterone and other DHEA supplements.

Of note, since prasterone is related to male and female hormones, some side effects could include masculinization in females, including acne, facial hair, hair loss, increased sweating, weight gain around the waist, or a deeper voice.

DHEA could increase the risk of—or adversely impact the course of—hormone sensitive cancers such as cancers of the breast, prostate, and ovary.

Males may develop more prominent breasts, breast tenderness, increased blood pressure, testicular wasting, or increased aggressiveness.

Other side effects related to prasterone and hormonal interaction:

  • Increased blood sugar levels
  • Insulin resistance
  • Altered cholesterol levels
  • Altered thyroid hormone levels
  • Altered adrenal function

Speaking with your healthcare provider about prasterone, or any other medicine or treatment you are considering, will help you decide if it might be beneficial for you.

3 Sources
Verywell Health uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
  1. Food and Drug Administration. INTRAROSA™ (prasterone) label. 2016.

  2. Sahu P, Gidwani B, Dhongade HJ. Pharmacological activities of dehydroepiandrosterone: A review. Steroids. 2020 Jan;153:108507. doi:10.1016/j.steroids.2019.108507

  3. Yousefi B, Rastin M, Hatef MR, Shariati J, Alimohammadi R, Mahmoudi M. In vitro modulatory effect of dehydroepiandrosterone sulfate on apoptosis and expression of apoptosis-related genes in patients with systemic lupus erythematosus. J Cell Physiol. 2019 Aug;234(8):12676-12684. doi:10.1002/jcp.27878

Additional Reading
  • DHEA. National Library of Medicine; National Institutes of Health. November 2008.
  • Test Results Released on DHEA Supplements. Lupus Foundation of America, Research. November 2006.

By Jeri Jewett-Tennant, MPH
Jeri Jewett-Tennant, MPH, is a medical writer and program development manager at the Center for Reducing Health Disparities.