At a Glance
Why Get Tested?
To determine the DHEAS level in the blood; to help evaluate adrenal gland function; to detect adrenal tumors or cancers; to help determine the cause of virilization in females or early puberty in boys
When to Get Tested?
When a woman has excess facial and body hair (hirsutism), acne, amenorrhea, or infertility; when a male child is undergoing very early (precocious) puberty or a female child is showing signs of virilization
A blood sample drawn from a vein in your arm
Test Preparation Needed?
None needed, although women should talk to their doctors about the timing of the test. The doctor may want to have the sample collected a week before or after your menstrual period.
The Test Sample
What is being tested?
Dehydroepiandrosterone sulfate (DHEAS) is an androgen, a male sex hormone that is present in the blood of both men and women. It has a role to play in developing male secondary sexual characteristics at puberty, and it can be metabolized by the body into more potent androgens, such as testosterone and androstenedione, or can be converted into the female hormone estrogen. DHEAS is produced by the adrenal cortex, the outer layer of the adrenal glands, with smaller amounts being produced by a woman's ovaries and man's testes. DHEAS secretion is controlled by the pituitary hormone adrenocorticotropic hormone (ACTH) and by other pituitary factors.
DHEAS is useful as a marker for adrenal function. Adrenal tumors, cancers, and adrenal hyperplasia can lead to the overproduction of DHEAS. While elevated levels may not be noticed in adult men, they can lead to amenorrhea and visible symptoms of virilization in females.
Excess levels of DHEAS in children can cause precocious puberty in boys and ambiguous external genitalia, excess body hair, and abnormal menstrual periods in girls.
How is the sample collected for testing?
A blood sample is obtained by inserting a needle into a vein in the arm.
NOTE: If undergoing medical tests makes you or someone you care for anxious, embarrassed, or even difficult to manage, you might consider reading one or more of the following articles: Coping with Test Pain, Discomfort, and Anxiety, Tips on Blood Testing, Tips to Help Children through Their Medical Tests, and Tips to Help the Elderly through Their Medical Tests.
Another article, Follow That Sample, provides a glimpse at the collection and processing of a blood sample and throat culture.
Is any test preparation needed to ensure the quality of the sample?
No test preparation is needed. Women should talk to their doctors about the timing of the test. The doctor may want to have the sample collected a week before or after a woman's menstrual period.
Ask a Laboratory Scientist
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NOTE: This article is based on research that utilizes the sources cited here as well as the collective experience of the Lab Tests Online Editorial Review Board. This article is periodically reviewed by the Editorial Board and may be updated as a result of the review. Any new sources cited will be added to the list and distinguished from the original sources used.
Sources Used in Current Review
(© 1995-2010). Unit Code 8493: Dehydroepiandrosterone Sulfate (DHEA-S), Serum. Mayo Clinic, Mayo Medical Laboratories [On-line information]. Available online at http://www.mayomedicallaboratories.com/test-catalog/Overview/8493 through http://www.mayomedicallaboratories.com. Accessed December 2010.
Yahya Abdel-Rahman, M. et. al. (2010 August 5). Androgen Excess. eMedicine Laboratories [On-line information]. Available online at http://emedicine.medscape.com/article/273153-overview through http://emedicine.medscape.com. Accessed December 2010.
Meikle, W. and Roberts, W. (Updated 2010 June). Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome. ARUP Consult [On-line information]. Available online at http://www.arupconsult.com/Topics/PCOS.html?client_ID=LTD#tabs=0 through http://www.arupconsult.com. Accessed December 2010.
Meikle, W. et. al. (Updated 2010 April). Amenorrhea. ARUP Consult [On-line information]. Available online at http://www.arupconsult.com/Topics/Amenorrhea.html#tabs=0 through http://www.arupconsult.com. Accessed December 2010.
Eckman,A. (Updated 2010 April 20). DHEA-sulfate test. MedlinePlus Medical Encyclopedia [On-line information]. Available online at http://www.nlm.nih.gov/medlineplus/ency/article/003717.htm. Accessed December 2010.
Pagana, K. D. & Pagana, T. J. (© 2011). Mosby's Diagnostic and Laboratory Test Reference 10th Edition: Mosby, Inc., Saint Louis, MO. Pp 63-64.
Clarke, W. and Dufour, D. R., Editors (2006). Contemporary Practice in Clinical Chemistry, AACC Press, Washington, DC, Pp 381-382.
Sources Used in Previous Reviews
Thomas, Clayton L., Editor (1997). Taber's Cyclopedic Medical Dictionary. F.A. Davis Company, Philadelphia, PA [18th Edition].
Pagana, Kathleen D. & Pagana, Timothy J. (2001). Mosby's Diagnostic and Laboratory Test Reference 5th Edition: Mosby, Inc., Saint Louis, MO.
Ribeiro, R.C., et.al. (2000 October). Adrenocortical tumors in children. St. Jude Children's Research Hospital, International Adrenocortical Tumor Registry [On-line information]. Available online at http://www.stjude.org/ipactr/reference_treatment_16.htm through http://www.stjude.org.
Dehydroepiandrosterone Sulfate, Serum. ARUP's Guide to Clinical Laboratory Testing (CLT) [On-line information]. Available online at http://www.aruplab.com/guides/clt/tests/clt_a178.htm through http://www.aruplab.com.
A.D.A.M., Inc. Updated (2002 May 17, Updated). Congenital adrenal hyperplasia. MEDLINEplus Medical Encyclopedia [On-line information]. Available online at http://www.nlm.nih.gov/medlineplus/ency/article/000411.htm.
Ruppe, M. Updated (2003 January 10). DHEA-sulfate. MEDLINEplus Medical Encyclopedia [On-line information]. Available online at http://www.nlm.nih.gov/medlineplus/ency/article/003717.htm.
Bradley, C. (2002 February 4). Ovarian overproduction of androgens. MEDLINEplus Medical Encyclopedia [On-line information]. Available online at http://www.nlm.nih.gov/medlineplus/ency/article/001165.htm.
Sadovsky, R. (2001 December 15). Androgen Deficiency in Women: Review of the Subject. American Family Physician, Tips from Other Journals [On-line Journal, Information from Miller, KA. Androgen deficiency in women. J. Clin Endrocrinol Metab 2001;86:2395-401]. Available online at http://www.aafp.org/afp/20011215/tips/6.html through http://www.aafp.org.
Alberta Clinical Practice Guidelines Steering Committee (2001 June, Revised). Laboratory Endocrine Testing Guidelines.. Alberta Medical Association [On-line guidelines]. Available online at http://www.albertadoctors.org/resources/endocrinology.html through http://www.albertadoctors.org.
Lobo, R. and Carmina, E. (2000 June 20). The Importance of Diagnosing the Polycystic Ovary Syndrome. Annals of Internal Medicine 2000;132:989-993 [On-line Journal]. Available online at http://www.annals.org/issues/v132n12/full/200006200-00010.html through http://www.annals.org.
Adrenal Gland Disorders. The Merck Manual of Medical Information--Home Edition, Section 13. Hormonal Disorders, Chapter 146 [On-line information]. Available online at http://www.merck.com/mrkshared/mmanual_home/sec13/146.jsp through http://www.merck.com.
Pagana, Kathleen D. & Pagana, Timothy J. (© 2007). Mosby's Diagnostic and Laboratory Test Reference 8th Edition: Mosby, Inc., Saint Louis, MO. Pp 64-65.
Clarke, W. and Dufour, D. R., Editors (2006). Contemporary Practice in Clinical Chemistry, AACC Press, Washington, DC. Cook, J. Chapter 33 Adrenal Disorders, Pp 375-385.
Wu, A. (2006). Tietz Clinical Guide to Laboratory Tests, Fourth Edition. Saunders Elsevier, St. Louis, Missouri. Pp 334-339.
Hurd, R. (2006 October 25). DHEA-sulfate - serum. MedlinePlus Medical Encyclopedia [On-line information]. Available online at http://www.nlm.nih.gov/medlineplus/ency/article/003717.htm. Accessed on 7/21/07.