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DHEA-sulfate test

Definition

DHEA-sulfate test measures the amount of DHEA-sulfate in the blood. DHEA-sulfate is a weak male hormone (androgen) produced by the adrenal gland in both men and women.

Alternative Names

Serum DHEA-sulfate; Dehydroepiandrosterone-sulfate test; DHEA-sulfate - serum

How the test is performed

Blood is typically drawn from a vein, usually from the inside of the elbow or the back of the hand. The puncture site is cleaned with germ-killing medicine (antiseptic). The health care provider wraps an elastic band around the upper arm to apply pressure to the area and make the vein swell with blood.

Next, the health care provider gently inserts a needle into the vein. The blood collects into an airtight vial or tube attached to the needle. The elastic band is removed from your arm. Once the blood has been collected, the needle is removed, and the puncture site is covered to stop any bleeding.

In infants or young children, a sharp tool called a lancet may be used to puncture the skin and make it bleed. The blood collects into a small glass tube called a pipette, or onto a slide or test strip. A bandage may be placed over the area if there is any bleeding.

How to prepare for the test

No special preparation is necessary. However, tell your health care provider if you are taking any vitamins or supplements that contain DHEA or DHEA-sulfate.

How the test will feel

When the needle is inserted to draw blood, some people feel moderate pain, while others feel only a prick or sting. Afterward, there may be some throbbing.

Why the test is performed

This test is done to check the function of the adrenal glands. The adrenal gland is one of the major sources of androgens in women.

The DHEA-sulfate test is often done in women who have male body characteristics (virilism) or excessive hair growth (hirsutism). It is also done in children who are maturing too early (precocious puberty).

Normal Values

Normal blood levels of DHEA-sulfate can differ by sex and age.

Typical normal ranges for females are:

  • Ages 18 - 19: 145 - 395 ug/dL
  • Ages 20 - 29: 65 - 380 ug/dL
  • Ages 30 - 39: 45 - 270 ug/dL
  • Ages 40 - 49: 32 - 240 ug/dL
  • Ages 50 - 59: 26 - 200 ug/dL
  • Ages 60 - 69: 13 - 130 ug/dL
  • Ages 69 and older: 17 - 90 ug/dL

Typical normal ranges for males are:

  • Ages 18 - 19: 108 - 441 ug/dL
  • Ages 20 - 29: 280 - 640 ug/dL
  • Ages 30 - 39: 120 - 520 ug/dL
  • Ages 40 - 49: 95 - 530 ug/dL
  • Ages 50 - 59: 70 - 310 ug/dL
  • Ages 60 - 69: 42 - 290 ug/dL
  • Ages 69 and older: 28 - 175 ug/dL

Note: ug/dL = microgram per deciliter

Normal value ranges may vary slightly among different laboratories. Talk to your doctor about the meaning of your specific test results.

What abnormal results mean

An increase in DHEA-sulfate may indicate:

What the risks are

Veins and arteries vary in size from one patient to another and from one side of the body to the other. Obtaining a blood sample from some people may be more difficult than from others.

Other risks associated with having blood drawn are slight but may include:

  • Excessive bleeding
  • Fainting or feeling lightheaded
  • Hematoma (blood accumulating under the skin)
  • Infection (a slight risk any time the skin is broken)

References

Guber HA, Farag AF, Lo J, Sharp J. Evaluation of endocrine function. In: McPherson RA, Pincus MR. Henry's Clinical Diagnosis and Management by Laboratory Methods. 21st ed. Philadelphia, Pa: W.B. Saunders Company; 2006:chap 24.


Review Date: 4/20/2010
Reviewed By: Ari S. Eckman, MD, Division of Endocrinology and Metabolism, Johns Hopkins School of Medicine, Baltimore, MD. Review provided by VeriMed Healthcare Network. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, A.D.A.M., Inc.
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