What is DHEA
Also Known As:
DHEA-SO4 DHEA Sulfate
Dehydroepiandrosterone sulfate (DHEAS) is a male sex hormone (androgen) that is present in both men and women. This test measures the level of DHEAS in the blood.
- Plays a role in developing male secondary sexual characteristics at puberty
- Can be converted by the body into more potent androgens, such as testosterone and androstenedione
- Can be converted into the female hormone estrogen
DHEAS is produced almost exclusively by the adrenal glands, with smaller amounts being produced by a woman’s ovaries and a man’s testicles.
A DHEAS test is useful in determining whether the adrenal glands are working properly. Adrenal tumors (cancerous and non-cancerous) and enlargement of an adrenal gland (hyperplasia) can lead to an increased level of DHEAS. Rarely, an ovarian tumor may produce DHEAS.
- It May not be noticed in adult men
- Can cause early (precocious) puberty in young boys
- Can lead to the absence of menstrual periods (amenorrhea) and the development of masculine physical characteristics (virilization) in girls and women, such as excess body and facial hair (hirsutism)
- Can cause a female baby to be born with genitals that are not distinctly male or female in appearance (ambiguous external genitalia)
How is the test used?
The test for dehydroepiandrosterone sulfate (DHEAS) is ordered along with tests for testosterone and several other male hormones (androgens) to:
- Evaluate whether the adrenal glands are working properly
- Distinguish between DHEAS-secreting conditions that are caused by the adrenal glands from those that originate in the testicles or rarely in the ovaries (ovarian tumors)
- Help diagnose tumors in the outer layer (cortex) of the adrenal gland (adrenocortical tumors) and adrenal cancers
- Help diagnose congenital adrenal hyperplasia and enlargement of the adrenal glands (hyperplasia) in adults
In women, DHEAS levels are often measured, along with other hormones such as FSH, LH, prolactin, estrogen, and testosterone, to help diagnose polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS) and to help rule out other causes of infertility, lack of menstrual period (amenorrhea), and excess hair on the face and body (hirsutism).
DHEAS levels may be ordered with other hormones to investigate and diagnose the cause of the development of masculine physical characteristics (virilization) in young girls and early (precocious) puberty in young boys.