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What is Dehydroepiandrosterone Sulphate (DHEAS) test? 

DHEAS is an androgen (male sex hormone) which is produced by the adrenal gland in both men and women. It is also produced in small amounts by the ovaries in women and the testicles in men. It helps in the production of other reproductive hormones - testosterone and estrogen. In men, this hormone is required for the development of secondary sexual characteristics at the time of puberty such as deepening of the voice and development of muscles. Excess amounts of DHEAS in women may lead to increased androgens which manifests in the form of acne, PCOS and menstrual irregularities.

A DHEAS test is performed to determine the level of DHEAS in your blood. Since this hormone is primarily produced by the adrenal gland, it serves as a marker for adrenal functioning. 

  1. Why is a DHEAS test performed?
  2. How do you prepare for a DHEAS test?
  3. How is a DHEAS test performed?
  4. DHEAS test results and normal range

Your doctor might order a DHEAS test along with other androgen tests

  • To look for a cause for male pattern baldness
  • To determine the cause of excess DHEAS secretion
  • To check the functioning of the adrenal gland
  • To check for the presence of any tumour in the outer region of the adrenal gland
  • To diagnose congenital adrenal hyperplasia

It is also recommended to young boys who show symptoms of early puberty such as: 

  • Premature enlargement of the penis
  • Muscularity
  • Deeper voice
  • Pubic hair

In women, this test may be ordered for investigating the following symptoms and conditions: 

  • Hair loss
  • Acne
  • Decrease in the breast size
  • Polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS)
  • Infertility 
  • Amenorrhoea (lack of menstruation)
  • Excessive facial and body hair 
  • Virilisation (development of physical masculine characteristics in girls such as increased muscularity and enlargement of the Adam’s apple)

In rare cases, DHEAS test may be advised if a young girl has ambiguous genitalia (external genitalia that do not appear distinctly male or female).

You do not require any prior preparations before going for this test. However, if you are a woman, the doctor is likely to take your blood sample a few days before your period. 

Only a small amount of blood is needed for this test. A doctor or laboratory technician will collect the required amount of blood from a vein in your arm using a sterile needle. You may just a quick sting or pinch as the needle goes into the skin. Sometimes, more than one needle insertion may be required. 

Some risks associated with taking a blood sample include difficulty in obtaining the sample, excessive bleeding at the site of blood withdrawal, lightheadedness or fainting, and haematoma. Rarely an infection may occur at the needle insertion site 

Normal results:

Results of this test can vary according to the gender, age and health history of the individual. Normal levels of DHEAS in the blood indicate that your adrenal glands are functioning well. 

The normal range for DHEAS in females is as follows:

  • 18-19 years: 145-395 µg/dL (micrograms per decilitre) 
  • 20-29 years: 65-380 µg/dL 
  • 30-39 years: 45-270 µg/dL 
  • 40-49 years: 32-240 µg/dL
  • 50-59 years: 26 to 200 µg/dL
  • 60-69 years: 13 to 130 µg/dL
  • 69 years and older: 17 to 90 µg/dL

The normal range for DHEAS in males is:

  • 18-19 years: 108-441 µg/dL 
  • 20-29 years: 280-640 µg/dL 
  • 30-39 years: 120-520 µg/dL 
  • 40-49 years: 95-530 µg/dL
  • 50-59 years: 70 to 310 µg/dL
  • 60-69 years: 42 to 290 µg/dL
  • 69 years and older: 28 to 175 µg/dL 

Abnormal results:

Abnormal results indicate that the DHEAS level is either higher or lower than the normal range. Low DHEAS levels could be attributed to:

  • Damage to the adrenal gland
  • Damage to the pituitary gland
  • Certain medications

High levels of DHEAS in your blood could be due to:

  • Adrenal tumour 
  • Adrenal hyperplasia

Disclaimer: All results must be clinically correlated with the patient’s complaints to make a complete and accurate diagnosis. The above information is provided from a purely educational point of view and is in no way a substitute for medical advice by a qualified doctor.

References

  1. Pagana, K. D. & Pagana, T. J. Mosby’s Diagnostic and Laboratory Test Reference. 10th Edition: Mosby, Inc., Saint Louis, MO. Pp 63-64.
  2. Rao LV, Pechet L, Jenkins A, et al.(2011) Laboratory Tests: Dehydroepiandrosterone Sulphate, Serum (DHEA-Sulfate). In: Wallach’s interpretation of diagnostic tests. Williamson MA, Snyder LM, eds. Lippincott Williams & Wilkins: Philadelphia.
  3. Jameson JL, De Groot LJ, de Kretser DM, et al, eds. Endocrinology: Adult and Pediatric. 7th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier Saunders; 2016: chap 121.
  4. MedlinePlus Medical Encyclopedia: US National Library of Medicine; DHEA-sulfate test

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