August 3, 2021


What is DHEAS?

Dehydroepiandrosterone (DHEA) is a hormone produced by the adrenal glands of both men and women under the regulation of pituitary hormones such as adrenocorticotropic hormone (ACTH). A small amount of DHEA is also produced by the testes and ovaries. DHEA is a precursor to several sex hormones such as as testosterone and oesterogen and is sometimes also called the “youth hormone” because its level is the highest at the age of 20-25 and then gradually decreases as we age.

DHEA can be converted to dehydroepiandrosterone sulphate (DHEAS) by attaching an extra sulphate group to the molecule. This makes the molecule bind to albumin better and easier to transport. DHEAS can also be converted back to DHEA when needed. In humans, 99% of the circulating DHEA in the blood is in the form of DHEAS. It is therefore more common to measure the concentration of DHEAS in the blood.

Why is this analysis important?

DHEAS is an androgen hormone and assists in the development of male secondary sexual characteristics during puberty. Women with male traits such as excess facial and body hair (hirsutism), acne and absence of menstrual periods (amenorrhea) can have so called “androgen excess” which means that levels of male hormones such as testosterone and DHEAS can be high in the blood.

High DHEAS in men usually do not cause any symptoms but very high levels can lead to increased conversion to oestrogen and thereby cause problems such as enlarged breasts (gynecomastia).

Small elevations in DHEAS levels are usually idiopathic, which means that doctors don’t really know the reason. However, very high levels of DHEAS can be due to the presence of an androgen-secreting tumour, though this is very rare.

In short, it is useful to analyse DHEAS levels in the blood to:

  • Detect androgen excess in women

  • Investigate menstrual irregularities and fertility problems in women

  • Investigate excess facial and body hair and acne in women

  • Investigate symptoms such as decreased sex drive and excessive tiredness

  • Detect androgen-secreting tumours


The reference range for DHEAS levels in the blood can be different depending on the laboratory and technique used. Doctors usually also take into account a number of factors, such as sex and age, when evaluating DHEAS values.

High DHEAS levels in the blood may be associated with:

  • Excess facial and body hair

  • Acne

  • Polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS) in women

  • Enlarged breasts (gynecomastia) in men

  • Androgen-producing tumours (rare)Intake of certain medication or supplements

Low DHEAS levels in the blood may be associated with:

  • High age

  • Loss of sex drive (libido)

  • Excessive tiredness

  • Osteoporosis

  • Intake of certain medication or supplements

Other Considerations

DHEAS levels in the blood can be affected by physical activity, therefore training before sampling should be avoided.

Intake of high levels of biotin (vitamin B7) can affect the measurement of DHEAS levels in the blood.


Wattana Leowattana. DHEAS as a new diagnostic tool. Clin Chim Acta. 2004 Mar;341(1-2):1-15.