Other names: Dehydroepiandrosterone Sulphate; DHEA Sulphate; DHEA Sulphate

Dehydroepiandrosterone sulphate (also known as DHEAS) is a weak form of androgen, a male sex hormone which is predominantly found in males but also exists in females. DHEAS can be converted into stronger sex hormones, including testosterone on males and oestrogen in females; it plays a part in the development of male sexual characteristics after the onset of puberty. The majority of the body’s DHEAS is produced by the adrenal glands but a small amount is produced by the ovaries in females and the testes in males. The secretion of DHEAS is controlled by the hormone ACTH (adrenocorticotropic hormone).

When is the test used?

The test is not used very often in the UK, as doctors feel other tests are more useful; however, it is used sometimes to differentiate between adrenocortical tumours and adrenal cancers and to help with the diagnosis of polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS). DHEAS may also be measured when a baby has ambiguous genitalia to help determine the sex.

The test is usually ordered when a doctor suspects excessive androgen production; symptoms in females include a low voice, infertility, acne, alopecia, small breasts and hirsutism (excess facial and body hair).

How is the test performed?

The test is done by collecting and analysing a sample of the patient’s blood. Blood is collected by inserting a needle into a vein in the arm (usually on the inside of the elbow); the blood is drawn out into a syringe and the sample is then bottled, labelled and sent away to the laboratory for evaluation.

What do the test results mean?

Low levels of DHEAS may indicate that the adrenal glands are not functioning properly; this may be caused by hypopituitarism, which is a condition that affects the production of pituitary hormones, which control the production of DHEAS. Very low levels may also indicate the presence of an adrenocortical tumour.

Normal levels of DHEAS usually indicate that there is no problem with the function of the adrenal glands; however, in rare cases, it may mean that the tumour is not secreting any hormones.

High levels of DHEAS may signify that the patient has adrenal cancer or adrenal hyperplasia (this occurs when there are too many cells and they start to form a tissue).

All newborn babies have high levels of DHEAS; however, quantities will decrease rapidly after birth.

Specific Blood Tests

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