written by: DulceCorazon•edited by: Diana Cooper•updated: 7/20/2010
A DHEAS blood test is usually performed on male patients who manifest symptoms of precocious puberty, and in female patients who present with virilization problems. Other hormone tests may also be done to help in the diagnosis.
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DHEAS, or dehydroepiandrosterone sulfate, is an abundant steroid hormone inside the body. It is often referred to as the mother of hormones because it leads to the production of sex hormones. Sex hormones, like androgen and estrogen, are responsible in the development of male and female secondary sexual characteristics, respectively. A DHEAS blood test is mostly used to determine if the level of DHEAS in an individual is normal, high or low.
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Why is a DHEAS blood test ordered?
A DHEAS blood test is usually ordered along with some other hormone tests whenever a doctor suspects excessive or deficient production of androgen in their patients. It may also be used to evaluate a patient's adrenal gland function.
This test is frequently done in female patients who manifest with several symptoms such as acne, hirsutism or presence of excess hairs, decreased size of breast, infertility, amenorrhea, hair loss and increased masculinity. The test is also performed in younger females who develop signs of virilization like a deep voice, and in much younger females who present with ambiguous genitalia. For young male patients, a DHEAS blood test may be ordered if the doctor observes symptoms of precocious puberty such as the growth of pubic hair, penis, muscularity and deeper voice before they reach puberty.
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How is the Test Performed?
A DHEAS blood test is usually performed by doing a venipuncture, a process of blood collection through the vein. It is usually done by applying pressure on the upper part of the arm using an elastic band. The skin surface of the venipuncture site is first cleaned with antiseptic, and with the use of a needle, the right amount of blood is extracted from the vein and collected in a test tube. Removal of the elastic band and needle then follows, and the blood specimen is processed in the laboratory. The whole procedure only lasts for a few minutes and does not usually hurt.
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What do the Results Mean?
Levels of DHEAS generally vary in a person's lifetime. High levels are usually seen in newborns, then their levels decrease after birth, and often rise again as they reach puberty to effect the secondary sexual changes occurring during this stage. Older individuals usually have lower levels of the hormone, just about 10 to 20% of their levels when they were in their twenties.
High levels of DHEAS do not exactly determine a specific condition. More tests are usually needed to detect what's causing the elevation.
Most cases of elevated DHEAS results are seen in the presence of adrenal hyperplasia, adrenal cancer and tumor in the adrenal cortex.
Decreased levels of DHEAS may manifest in individuals with hypopituitarism. Symptoms of low DHEAS levels include fatigue, moodiness, memory problems, anxiety, sensitivity to noise, and decreased sexual drive.