Dehydroepiandrosterone and Dehydroepiandrosterone Sulfate
Does this test have other names?
What is this test?
This test measures the level of dehydroepiandrosterone (DHEA) and dehydroepiandrosterone
sulfate (DHEA-S) in your blood. It may also be used to check how well your adrenal
glands are working.
DHEA is a hormone made by your adrenal glands and to a lesser degree by the ovaries
and testes. DHEA is changed into DHEA-S in your adrenal glands and liver.
In both men and women, the sex hormones estrogen and testosterone depend on DHEA.
DHEA also has a role in the making of insulin growth factor-1 (IGF-1). IGF-1 helps
with muscle growth and insulin sensitivity.
Why do I need this test?
You may need this test if you have symptoms of either high or low levels of DHEA-S.
Men may not have any symptoms of high levels of DHEA-S. Signs and symptoms in women
Hirsutism, or excessive hair growth on the face and body
Female pattern baldness
Missed periods, or even sterility
High levels of DHEA-S in children can cause early puberty in boys. A high level of
DHEA-S in girls can cause external genitals and abnormal periods.
Low levels of DHEA-S are linked to signs of aging, and include these conditions:
Vaginal atrophy, or inflammation of the vagina because of thinning and shrinking of
the vaginal tissues and decreased vaginal lubrication
Reduced libido, or sex drive
You may also have a low DHEA-S level if you have lupus, chronic fatigue syndrome,
Crohn's disease, or AIDS.
What other tests might I have along with this test?
Your healthcare provider may also order a blood test to check your androstenedione
(AD) level if he or she suspects that you are making too much DHEA and DHEA-S. (AD
is a molecule made from DHEA before it ultimately turns into a sex hormone.)
Your healthcare provider may also order tests to check your levels of estrogen and
testosterone, as well as other sex hormones.
Your healthcare provider may order an adrenocorticotropic hormone, or ACTH, test if
he or she suspects that you are making too little DHEA and DHEA-S.
What do my test results mean?
Many things may affect your lab test results. These include the method each lab uses
to do the test. Even if your test results are different from the normal value, you
may not have a problem. To learn what the results mean for you, talk with your healthcare
Normal levels vary with age and gender. If you have a normal level, it means your
adrenal glands are working the way they should.
If your level of DHEA-S is high, it may mean that you have adrenal cancer, tumors,
or excess growth of hormone-producing tissue (hyperplasia).
If your DHEA level is low, it may mean that your adrenal glands are not making enough
hormones. This can be because of a damaged outer layer of an adrenal gland or a diseased
pituitary gland. The pituitary gland makes a hormone that stimulates the adrenal glands
to do their job. If the pituitary gland doesn't make enough of its hormone, then the
adrenal glands won't produce enough of their hormone either. Your adrenal glands may
stop working for a short time if you suddenly start or stop taking certain medicines,
How is this test done?
The test requires a blood sample, which is drawn through a needle from a vein in your
Does this test pose any risks?
Taking a blood sample with a needle carries risks that include bleeding, infection,
bruising, or feeling dizzy. When the needle pricks your arm, you may feel a slight
stinging sensation or pain. Afterward, the site may be slightly sore.
What might affect my test results?
Menstruation can affect your results. You should have this test done one week before
or after your menstrual period.
DHEA supplements can also affect your results. Nutritional supplements aren't monitored
in the U.S., so the purity and strength listed on the supplement package may be unreliable.
How do I get ready for this test?
Be sure to tell your healthcare provider if you are taking a DHEA supplement or any
supplement marketed as an "athletic performance enhancer." In addition, let your healthcare
provider know about all other medicines, herbs, vitamins, and supplements you are
taking. This includes medicines that don't need a prescription and any illicit drugs
you may use.