Functions of DHEA
(DHEA) is a hormone
produced by both men and women. It’s released by the adrenal glands, and it
contributes to male traits. The adrenal
glands are small, triangular-shaped glands located above the
The symptoms of DHEA deficiency can include:
- prolonged fatigue
- poor concentration
- a diminished sense of well-being
After the age of 30, DHEA levels begin to decline naturally.
DHEA levels may be low in people who have certain conditions such as:
- type 2 diabetes
- adrenal deficiency
- kidney disease
Certain medications may also cause DHEA depletion. These
Tumors and adrenal gland disorders can cause abnormally high
levels of DHEA, leading to early sexual maturity.
the Test Addresses
Your doctor may recommend a DHEA-sulfate serum test to make
sure that your adrenal glands are working properly and that you have a normal
amount of DHEA in your body.
This test is commonly performed on women who have excessive
hair growth or the appearance of male body characteristics. A DHEA-sulfate
serum test may also be done on children who are maturing at an abnormally early
age. These are symptoms of a gland disorder called congenital adrenal hyperplasia, which causes increased levels of
DHEA and the male sex hormone androgen.
the Test Is Administered
You don’t need to make any special preparations for this
test. However, let your doctor know if you’re taking any supplements or
vitamins that contain DHEA or DHEA-sulfate because they may affect the
reliability of the test.
You’ll have a blood test in your doctor’s office. A
healthcare provider will swab the injection site with an antiseptic. They’ll
then wrap an elastic band around the top of your arm to cause the vein to swell
with blood. Then, they’ll insert a fine needle into your vein to collect a blood
sample in an attached tube. They’ll remove the band as the vial fills with
blood. When they’ve collected enough blood, they’ll remove the needle from your
arm and apply gauze to the site to prevent any further bleeding.
In the case of a young child whose veins are smaller, the
healthcare provider will use a sharp instrument called a lancet to puncture their skin. Their
blood is then collected into a small tube or onto a test strip. A bandage will
be placed on the site to prevent further bleeding.
The blood sample will then be sent to a lab for analysis.
Are the Risks of the Test?
As with any blood tests, there are minimal risks of
bruising, bleeding, or infection at the puncture site. In rare cases, the vein
may become swollen after blood is drawn. You can treat this condition, known
as phlebitis, by applying a
warm compress several times per day.
Excessive bleeding could be a problem if you have a bleeding
disorder or you’re taking blood-thinning medication, such as warfarin
(Coumadin) or aspirin.
Normal results will vary depending on your sex and age. An
abnormally high level of DHEA in the blood may be the result of a number of
conditions, including the following:
carcinoma is a rare disorder that results in the growth of malignant
cancer cells in the adrenal gland’s outer layer
adrenal hyperplasia is a series of inherited adrenal gland disorders that
cause boys to enter puberty two to three years early. In girls, it can cause
abnormal hair growth, irregular menstrual periods, and genitals that appear to
look both male and female.
ovary syndrome is an imbalance of female sex hormones.
- An adrenal
gland tumor is the growth of a benign or cancerous tumor on the
to Expect After the Test
If your test shows that you have abnormal levels of DHEA,
your doctor will administer a series of additional tests to determine the
cause. In the case of an adrenal tumor, you may need surgery, radiation, or chemotherapy.
If you have congenital adrenal hyperplasia or polycystic ovary syndrome, you
may require hormone therapy to stabilize your level of DHEA.