Dehydroepiandrosterone Sulfate (DHEAS) is a sex hormone secreted primarily by the adrenal cortex, the outer portion of the adrenal glands located at the top of the kidneys. The hormone is produced in men and, to a lesser extent, women. In males, DHEAS assists the development of male secondary sexual characteristics at puberty and can be metabolized into testosterone and androstenedione. In women, it can be changed into estrogen. When the adrenal glands are not functioning properly, an overabundance can be produced, leading to problems.
Why Would You Be Tested?
DHEAS level is useful as a marker of the function of the adrenal gland. Adrenal tumors, cancers and enlargement of the adrenal gland can all lead to overproduction of DHEAS. While DHEAS levels are not routinely measured, symptoms that the level could be excessive can persuade a doctor to order the test. In women, overproduction of DHEAS can cause menstruation to stop and lead to development of male characteristics -- excessive facial or body hair, male pattern baldness, muscularity or a deep voice. During childhood, excessive DHEAS can trigger early puberty in boys and ambiguous genitalia and abnormal menstrual periods in girls.
How is the Test Done?
The DHEAS test is a blood test. For adults, a needle is inserted into a blood vessel to withdraw a blood sample. For small children, the blood sample might be obtained from a finger-stick instead.
Possible Culprits in Elevated DHEAS
High DHEAS levels are often linked to Cushing’s syndrome, a condition most often caused by long-term use of oral steroids. Besides causing characteristic physical signs such as a rounded face and a fatty lump between the shoulders, Cushing’s syndrome can lead to bone loss, high blood pressure and diabetes. Elevated DHEAS is also linked to polycystic ovary syndrome. Adrenal tumors cause the gland to malfunction, leading to elevated DHEAS levels.
How is Elevated DHEAS Treated?
Doctors seek to diagnose and treat the cause. That may range from medications that balance the androgen levels or induce ovulation to surgery to remove an adrenal tumor
Do All People Have Symptoms?
Not everyone will show symptoms of elevated DHEAS. Because men already have masculine characteristics, it can be difficult to determine they might need testing. Women of some ethnic groups can have elevated testosterone and DHEAS and show no obvious symptoms. Also the range of possible symptoms, and the severity of each, is unique to each person with elevated DHEAS.