Healthcare providers use DHEAS tests to measure levels of a steroid hormone that your body converts into estrogen and androgens (testosterone). A high test result may indicate an adrenal tumor or polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS), while a low test result may indicate Addison’s disease. You’ll need additional tests for an accurate diagnosis.
A DHEAS test measures levels of dehydroepiandrosterone sulfate (DHEAS) in your blood. Your adrenal glands make DHEA sulfate, a steroid hormone found in all sexes. DHEAS levels tend to peak around puberty and then naturally decline with age.
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Your body converts DHEAS into androgens (testosterone and androstenedione) and estrogen. Males make more testosterone, while females make more estrogen, but all sexes produce and use these hormones. DHEAS is critical for the development of male sex characteristics during puberty and for reproduction in all sexes.
You have two adrenal glands, one on top of each kidney. These glands make most of the body’s DHEAS. The testicles in the male reproductive system and ovaries in the female reproductive system also make small amounts of DHEAS.
Your adrenal glands:
Infants or children who are intersex may also get a DHEAS test. Intersex means a person’s reproductive or sexual anatomy doesn’t quite fit a binary (male/female) classification.
Male children with high DHEAS levels may experience early (precocious) puberty. Adults presenting as men at birth with high levels may not have symptoms.
People born female at birth with high levels of DHEAS may experience:
In addition, low DHEAS levels can cause:
A DHEAS test requires a blood draw. Some labs don’t offer this specialized test. Your provider will direct you to a lab that does.
The procedure takes less than five minutes. A phlebotomist, a specialist trained in drawing blood, takes the blood sample. Your healthcare provider may order tests to check other hormone levels, such as testosterone or estrogen, using the same blood draw.
To draw the blood, a provider:
Unlike other hormones that fluctuate, DHEAS levels tend to remain stable throughout the day. The time of day that you get the DHEAS test shouldn’t affect the test results. You can eat or drink as usual before a DHEAS test unless your provider instructs you otherwise.
You should ask your provider whether you should stop taking certain medicines or supplements before the blood test. Certain medicines that treat diabetes and high blood pressure can increase DHEAS levels, while supplements like fish oil and vitamin E can lower them. Nicotine also causes DHEAS levels to rise, so you shouldn’t smoke before the test.
It can take several days for your provider to get the results back from the lab.
Blood tests measure DHEAS a variety of units and typical ranges for DHEAS levels vary by age and sex.
Laboratories can use different techniques that can affect the results. Two labs might return slightly different results from the same blood sample. For this reason, your provider will use the same lab to track your levels, and will use lab-specific normal value ranges.
High levels of DHEAS may mean you need additional testing. They can indicate problems such as:
Low levels of DHEAS also may require further testing. They can be a sign of problems including:
Probably not. Despite the claims, there’s no evidence that over-the-counter DHEA supplements slow the aging process, help build muscle or improve physical performance. But the supplements can cause serious side effects and interfere with prescribed medications.
The World Anti-Doping Agency prohibits the use of DHEA supplements among competitive and collegiate athletes. You should always consult with your healthcare provider before taking any supplement.
A note from Cleveland Clinic
Your healthcare provider may order a DHEAS test if you have symptoms that indicate your body is making too much or too little of this hormone. Your body needs DHEAS to produce androgens and estrogen. Women who make too much DHEAS may develop PCOS or characteristics like facial hair. Boys with high DHEAS levels may start puberty too soon. DHEAS levels can also affect your sex drive and reproductive health.
Last reviewed by a Cleveland Clinic medical professional on 11/24/2021.
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