Since DHEAS is primarily produced by the adrenal glands, it is useful as a marker for adrenal function. Adrenal tumors, cancers, and 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. These changes vary in severity and may include:
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. As an alternative, particularly in pediatric care, the blood sample is drawn from the fingertip. This is often called a "fingerstick."
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 the womans menstrual period.
How is it used?DHEAS levels are not routinely measured. Unless you have symptoms that warrant its use, you will most likely never have a DHEAS test done. DHEAS, testosterone, and several other androgens are used to evaluate adrenal function and to distinguish androgen-secreting conditions that are caused by the adrenal glands from those that originate in the ovaries or testes. DHEAS can be measured to help diagnose adrenocortical tumors (tumors in the cortex of the adrenal gland), adrenal cancers, and adrenal hyperplasia (which may be congenital or adult onset) and to separate these conditions from ovarian tumors and cancers.
Concentrations of DHEAS are often measured, along with other hormones such as FSH, LH, prolactin, estrogen, and testosterone, to help diagnose polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS) and to help rule out other causes of infertility, amenorrhea, and hirsutism.
DHEAS levels may be ordered, along with other hormones, to investigate and diagnose the cause of virilization in young girls and precocious puberty in young boys.
When is it ordered?A DHEAS test may be ordered, along with other hormone tests, whenever excess (or more rarely deficient) androgen production is suspected and/or when your doctor wants to evaluate your adrenal gland function.
It may be measured when a woman presents with symptoms such as: hirsutism, alopecia, amenorrhea, infertility, acne, increased muscularity, and decreased breast size. It may also be ordered when a young girl shows signs of virilization, such as hirsutism, a deep voice, or when a female infant has ambiguous genitalia wherein the clitoris is overgrown but the internal female organs usually appear normal.
DHEAS may also be measured when young boys show signs of precocious puberty, the development of a deeper voice, pubic hair, muscularity, and an enlarged penis well before the age of normal puberty.
What does the test result mean?Low levels of DHEAS may be due to adrenal dysfunction or hypopituitarism - a condition that causes decreased levels of the pituitary hormones that regulate the production and secretion of adrenal hormones. Normal DHEAS levels, along with other normal androgen levels, may indicate that the adrenal gland is functioning normally or (more rarely) that an adrenal tumor or cancer present is not secreting hormones. Normal levels of DHEAS may be seen with PCOS, as this disorder is usually related to ovarian androgen production (primarily testosterone).
Elevated levels of DHEAS may indicate an adrenocortical tumor, adrenal cancer, or adrenal hyperplasia. Increased levels of DHEAS are not diagnostic of a specific condition; they usually indicate the need for further testing to pinpoint the cause of the hormone imbalance.
Is there anything else I should know?DHEAS levels are normally high in both male and female newborns. They drop sharply shortly after birth, then rise again during puberty. DHEAS concentrations peak after puberty, and then, like other male and female hormones, the levels tend to decline with aging.
People taking DHEA supplements will have elevated blood levels of DHEAS.
Why doesnt my sample for a DHEAS level have to be drawn in the morning?Some hormones are increased in the morning while others rise and fall throughout the day. Some are released intermittently or with increased activity or in response to stress. Some hormones are higher at particular times of the month, and others are relatively stable. Blood sample collection for some hormone tests are often timed so that the hormones can be evaluated at their highest or lowest levels. However, DHEAS concentrations are stable, so your sample may be collected any time or day and it will not affect the result of the test.
Does everyone with elevated DHEAS have symptoms?Not necessarily. It may be difficult to determine when adult men have elevated levels of DHEAS (since they already have masculine secondary sexual characteristics) and women of some ethnic groups (for example Asian women) may have elevated levels of testosterone and DHEAS without exhibiting symptoms such as excess hair growth or acne. Also, it should be noted that the symptoms present, and their severity, will vary from person to person.