DHEA stands for dehydroepiandrosterone. It is a weak male hormone (androgen) produced by the adrenal glands in both men and women. The DHEA-sulfate test measures the amount of DHEA-sulfate in the blood.
A blood sample is needed.
No special preparation is necessary. However, tell your health care provider if you are taking any vitamins or supplements that contain DHEA or DHEA-sulfate.
When the needle is inserted to draw blood, some people feel moderate pain. Others feel only a prick or sting. Afterward, there may be some throbbing or a slight bruise. This soon goes away.
This test is done to check the function of the two adrenal glands. One of these glands sits above each kidney. They are one of the major sources of androgens in women.
Although DHEA-sulfate is the most abundant hormone in the body, its exact function is still not known.
The DHEA-sulfate test is often done in women who show signs of having excess male hormones. Some of these signs are male body changes, excess hair growth, oily skin, acne, irregular periods, or problems becoming pregnant.
It may also be done in women who are concerned about low libido or decreased sexual satisfaction who have pituitary or adrenal gland disorders.
The test is also done in children who are maturing too early (precocious puberty).
Normal blood levels of DHEA-sulfate can differ by sex and age.
Typical normal ranges for females are:
Typical normal ranges for males are:
Normal value ranges may vary slightly among different laboratories. Some labs use different measurements or test different specimens. Talk to your health care provider about the meaning of your specific test results.
An increase in DHEA-sulfate may be due to:
A decrease in DHEA sulfate may be due to:
DHEA levels normally decline with age in both men and women. There is no reliable evidence that taking DHEA supplements prevents aging-related conditions.
There is little risk involved with having your blood taken.Veins and arteries vary in size from one person to another and from one side of the body to the other. Obtaining a blood sample from some people may be more difficult than from others.
Other risks associated with having blood drawn are slight, but may include:
Reviewed By: Brent Wisse, MD, Associate Professor of Medicine, Division of Metabolism, Endocrinology & Nutrition, University of Washington School of Medicine, Seattle, WA. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, Brenda Conaway, Editorial Director, and the A.D.A.M. Editorial team.