What is DHEA?
Dehydroepiandrosterone (DHEA) is a hormone produced by the adrenal glands. It also has a key role in the development of sex hormones namely testosterone and estrogen. Higher levels may mean adrenocortical tumor, Cushing's disease, adrenal cancer or adrenal hyperplasia. However, further testing might be needed to confirm the diagnosis of these conditions. A low level of DHEA may be due to adrenal insufficiency, Addison's disease, and hypopituitarism.
The test is usually ordered if a woman has signs or symptoms of amenorrhea (absence of periods), polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS) or infertility. It is ordered in girls with signs such as excess facial or body hair (hirsutism), acne, or decreased breast size and boys with signs of early puberty such as deep voice, pubic hair or muscle development.
Why is DHEA done?
- If a woman has signs or symptoms such as amenorrhea, infertility or those of virilization like deep voice, excess facial or body hair, acne, decreased breast size
- It may be ordered to evaluate the function of adrenal gland
Interpreting DHEA results
- Normal DHEA with normal androgen levels usually indicate that the adrenal gland is functioning normally
A high DHEA may indicate an adrenocortical tumor, Cushing's disease, adrenal cancer or adrenal hyperplasia. It is not diagnostic of a specific condition, further testing may then be required to confirm the diagnosis of the above mentioned conditions
- DHEA may be elevated with polycystic ovarian syndrome
- A low level of DHEA may be due to adrenal insufficiency, Addison's disease, hypopituitarism