Dehydroepiandrosterone Sulfate (DHEA-S) Blood Test
The Dehydroepiandrosterone Sulfate (DHEA-S) Blood Test measures DHEA-S levels, helps evaluate adrenal function, and the cause of virilization in young girls and women or early puberty in young boys.
What is DHEA-S?
Dehydroepiandrosterone sulfate (DHEA-S) is a male sex hormone (androgen) present in the blood of both men and women. DHEA-S assists in the development of certain male sexual traits at puberty and can be metabolized into testosterone and androstenedione (more potent androgens) or changed into a female hormone (estrogen). The adrenal cortex, the outer layer of the adrenal glands, produces DHEA-S, while smaller amounts are made in the testes and ovaries. DHEA-S secretion is controlled by the pituitary hormone, adrenocorticotropic hormone (ACTH), and other pituitary factors. Since the adrenal glands primarily produce DHEA-S, it is a strong marker for adrenal function. Cancers, adrenal tumors, and hyperplasia can lead to the overproduction of DHEA sulfate. While elevated DHEA-S levels may not be detected in adult men, they can lead to visible virilization symptoms and amenorrhea.
What is the purpose of this test?
Order this DHEA-S Blood Test to help evaluate adrenal function. Additionally, this blood test aids in identifying the cause of excess androgen production that results in conditions such as virilization, infertility, hirsutism, or amenorrhea.
This DHEA-S Blood Test may be used to:
- Evaluate if the adrenal glands are functioning properly.
- Determine whether DHEAS-secreting conditions are caused by the adrenal glands originating in the testicles or the ovaries (ovarian tumors).
- Aid in diagnosing tumors in the adrenal gland's cortex for adrenal cancers.
- Aid in diagnosing adrenogenital syndrome and enlargement of the adrenal glands (hyperplasia) in adults.
What Is the Difference Between DHEA and DHEA-S?
The main difference between DHEA and DHEA-S is that DHEA has an extra sulfate molecule attached to it. DHEA-S is a steroid androgen found in both women and men. DHEA is made in the ovaries, testes, and adrenal glands. The body changes DHEA sulfate into DHEA with the enzyme steroid sulfatase. However, the body also reverses this process and changes DHEA back into DHEA-S.
When should I order a DHEA-S Blood Test?
Individuals may order this test if they have experienced symptoms related to excess male hormones (virilization) or if a healthcare provider wants to evaluate the adrenal gland function.
Common signs or symptoms of virilization may include:
- No or irregular menstrual periods
- A deeper voice
- Excess facial or body hair (hirsutism)
- Male pattern baldness
- Enlargement of the Adam's apple
- Decreased breast size
- Ambiguous genitalia
- Early puberty in young boys
Additionally, conditions related to adrenal gland malfunction may include the following:
- Adrenogenital syndrome
- A tumor of the adrenal gland
- Polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS)
- Abdominal pain
- High blood pressure
- Muscle and bone weakness
- Moodiness, irritability, or depression
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