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Blood Test: Dehydroepiandrosterone-Sulfate (DHEA-S)

What Is a Blood Test?

By taking and testing a small sample of a person’s blood, doctors can check for many kinds of diseases and conditions. Blood tests help doctors check how the body’s organs are working and see if medical treatments are helpful.

To help your child get ready for a blood test, find out if they need to fast (not eat or drink) or should stop taking medicines before the test. Explain what to expect during the test. If your child is anxious about it, work together on ways to stay calm.

What Is DHEA-S?

Dehydroepiandrosterone-sulfate (DHEA-S) is a steroid hormone. Most of it is made by the adrenal cortex, the outer part of the two adrenal glands that sit above the kidneys. DHEA-S is an androgen (a male-type sex hormone), but is made by males and females both.

DHEA-S is a building block for making the male sex hormone testosterone and the female sex hormone estrogen. A DHEA-S test measures the amount of the hormone in the bloodstream.

Why Are DHEA-S Tests Done?

DHEA-S levels are high in newborn babies, then quickly drop. They rise again during puberty, when they help trigger the development of pubic hair and underarm hair.

Doctors may order a DHEA-S test to see how the adrenal glands are working. If the body makes too much DHEA-S, signs of puberty (like the early appearance of pubic or underarm hair) can start sooner than expected. This is called precocious puberty. DHEA-S may also be checked when someone has irregular periods.

The testes and ovaries also make small amounts of DHEA-S. So doctors may do this test along with other hormone tests to rule out diseases that affect those organs. The test can also help diagnose pituitary gland damage or disease because pituitary hormones control adrenal production of DHEA-S.

What if I Have Questions?

If you have questions about the DHEA-S test or what the results of the test mean, talk to your doctor.

Reviewed by: Larissa Hirsch, MD
Date Reviewed: May 1, 2023

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