- Last Update On : 2013-01-09
DHEA, DHEA sulfate, and androstenedione are three precursors of androgens and estrogens. DHEA secreted from the adrenal cortex has minimal direct biological activity. Adrenal DHEA is rapidly conjugated with sulfate to form DHEA sulfate. The plasma concentration of DHEA sulfate is 1000 times higher than unconjugated DHEA. Measurement of plasma DHEA-S levels is useful in investigation of hirsutism and amenorrhea in women and diagnosis of androgen secreting adrenal tumors.
Elevated plasma levels may indicate hyperandrogenism from an adrenal tumor or congenital adrenal hyperplasia. In congenital adrenal hyperplasia caused by 11-B or 21-B hydroxylase deficiency, elevated ACTH secretion increases the DHEA level, which results in premature penile enlargement and early secondary sexual characteristics in boys and hirsutism and virilization in girls. Plasma levels are often increased in women with hirsutism and polycystic ovarian disease. DHEA-S may be increased in amenorrhea. Elevated plasma levels may also be caused by DHEA rich food extracts such as Mexican yams and beef adrenal glands. DHEA supplements can be purchased in health food stores.
Reference range is gender and age dependent and declines with advancing age.
Specimen requirement is a plain red top tube of blood collected before 10:30 a.m.