lab technician holding a blood sample vial

DHEA-S – All About This Hormone And Possible Issues

This article will explain what DHEA-S is and its role in our bodies. We will also cover the types of DHEA-S issues, the causes of those issues, and possible symptoms people may feel. Furthermore, we will cover the normal DHEA-S levels in average men and women as well as the testing options for DHEA-S levels.

Finally, we will cover the treatment options available and the average cost of each treatment.

What Is DHEA-S?

Dehydroepiandrosterone (DHEA) is a hormone made by your adrenal glands. Some DHEA is also made by the ovaries and testes. Your adrenal glands and liver change DHEA into dehydroepiandrosterone-sulfate (DHEA-S). Your DHEA levels may be lower at different times during the day, but your DHEA-S levels do not change throughout the day.

What Does DHEA-S Do In Our Bodies?

The sex hormones estrogen and testosterone depend on DHEA. DHEA also makes insulin growth factor-1 (IGF-1). IGF-1 helps with your muscle growth and insulin sensitivity.

Normal DHEA-S Levels In Men and Women

Normal DHEA-sulfate levels in the blood can differ based on sex and age.

lab testing vials with different fluids

Typical normal ranges for females are:

  • Ages 18 to 19: 145 to 395 micrograms per deciliter or 3.92 to 10.66 micromoles per liter
  • Ages 20 to 29: 65 to 380 micrograms per deciliter or 1.75 to 10.26 micromoles per liter
  • Ages 30 to 39: 45 to 270 micrograms per deciliter or 1.22 to 7.29 micromoles per liter
  • Ages 40 to 49: 32 to 240 micrograms per deciliter or 0.86 to 6.48 micromoles per liter
  • Ages 50 to 59: 26 to 200 micrograms per deciliter or 0.70 to 5.40 micromoles per liter
  • Ages 60 to 69: 13 to 130 micrograms per deciliter or 0.35 to 3.51 micromoles per liter
  • Ages 69 and older: 17 to 90 micrograms per deciliter or 0.46 to 2.43 micromoles per liter

Typical normal ranges for males are:

  • Ages 18 to 19: 108 to 441 micrograms per deciliter or 2.92 to 11.91 micromoles per liter
  • Ages 20 to 29: 280 to 640 micrograms per deciliter or 7.56 to 17.28 micromoles per liter
  • Ages 30 to 39: 120 to 520 micrograms per deciliter or 3.24 to 14.04 micromoles per liter
  • Ages 40 to 49: 95 to 530 micrograms per deciliter or 2.56 to 14.31 micromoles per liter
  • Ages 50 to 59: 70 to 310 micrograms per deciliter or 1.89 to 8.37 micromoles per liter
  • Ages 60 to 69: 42 to 290 micrograms per deciliter or 1.13 to 7.83 micromoles per liter
  • Ages 69 and older: 28 to 175 micrograms per deciliter or 0.76 to 4.72 micromoles per liter

Types of DHEA-S Issues

In this section, we will explain the types of DHEA-S issues, including high levels of DHEA-S, low levels of DHEA-S, and causes of DHEA-S issues.

High Levels of DHEA-S

High DHEA-S is more likely to cause symptoms in women than in men. A child with elevated DHEA-S may grow pubic or underarm hair early.

Having high levels of DHEA-S might mean you have one of the following conditions:

Asian female and black male medical practitioners looking at a blood test tube sample for signs of kidney disease.
  • Adrenal cancer or tumors
  • Adrenal hyperplasia is a condition that causes your adrenal gland to become overactive
  • Cushing’s disease, which can cause fat on the belly and the back of the neck, full face, skin bruising, and excess hair growth
  • Polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS), which causes sex hormones to get out of balance and often leads to infertility

Low Levels of DHEA-S

If you have low DHEA, it may mean you have one of the following conditions:

  • Addison’s disease
  • Adrenal dysfunction
  • Adrenal insufficiency
hand holding a vial with blue fluid in a lab setting
  • Hypopituitarism is a condition that causes low levels of the pituitary hormones. These hormones regulate the production of adrenal hormones

Causes of DHEA-S Issues

Many related conditions associated with high or low DHEA or DHEA-S levels can cause DHEA or DHEA-S issues.

Symptoms of Low DHEA-S Levels

In this section, we will discuss the symptoms of low DHEA-S levels, including common symptoms in men and common symptoms in women.

Common Symptoms in Men

Common symptoms of low DHEA for men include:

  • Aching joints
  • Anxiety
  • Decreased sex drive
  • Depression
  • Diminished levels of sex hormones
man sitting and rubbing his eyes
  • Erectile dysfunction
  • Fatigue
  • Impaired immune function
  • Increased risk of heart disease
  • Increased risk of osteoporosis
  • Loss of muscle mass
  • Loss of strength
  • Reduced mental function

Common Symptoms in Women

Common symptoms of low DHEA for women include:

  • Decrease in bone density
  • Decrease in muscle mass
  • Depression
  • Extreme fatigue
  • Joint pain
  • Loss of libido
  • Lowered immunity
a woman dressed in black sitting and covering her whole face with both of her hands which have one ring on each of them

Symptoms Of High DHEA-S Levels

Here we will review the symptoms of high DHEA-S levels, including common symptoms in men and in women.

Common Symptoms in Men

Common symptoms of high DHEA-S levels in men include:

  • Adrenal carcinoma
  • Adrenal tumors
  • Congenital adrenal hyperplasia

Common Symptoms in Women

Common symptoms of high DHEA-S in women include:

  • Acne
  • Deepening of voice
  • Excess body and facial hair growth
  • Hair loss at the top of the head
  • Increased muscularity
  • Menstrual irregularities


This section will discuss what to expect during a DHEA-S test, how to prepare for a DHEA-S test, how long it takes to get results, and treatment options.

What To Expect During A DHEA-S Test?

A DHEA-S test requires a blood draw, a procedure that takes less than five minutes. A phlebotomist (a specialist trained in drawing blood) will take the blood sample.
In addition to testing your DHEA-S levels, your blood may also be tested for other hormone levels, such as estrogen or testosterone.

How To Prepare For DHEA-S Test?

DHEA-S levels tend to remain stable throughout the day, so the time of day that you get the DHEA-S test should not affect the test results. You do not need to fast before the test and can eat and drink as normal unless your doctor gives you different instructions. Consult your doctor about if you should stop taking certain medications or supplements before your DHEA-S test. Certain diabetes and high blood pressure medications can increase DHEA-S levels. Supplements like fish oil and vitamin E can lower DHEA-S levels.

patient consulting with their doctor

You should avoid smoking before the test because nicotine causes DHEA-S levels to rise.

How Long Does It Take To Get The Results?

It can take several days for your doctor to get the results from the lab.

DHEA-S Treatment Options

You can take a DHEA supplement to treat low levels of DHEA or DHEA-S. Most DHEA supplements are produced in laboratories using diosgenin, a plant sterol extracted from wild Mexican yams. These extracts are sometimes marketed as “natural DHEA,” and advertisers claim that your body converts these extracts into DHEA, but in fact, your body cannot convert these extracts into DHEA. For this reason, it is best to stick to supplements that list DHEA rather than diosgenin or wild yam extract.

To make sure you are getting high-quality DHEA supplements, it is important for you to buy the supplements from a professional healthcare provider.

DHEA is available in several forms, including:

  • Capsules
  • Chewing gum
  • Sublingual (under the tongue) drops
  • Tablets
  • Topical (on the skin) cream

If you are under 40, you should not take DHEA without your doctor’s supervision. Do not give DHEA to a child unless the child’s doctor tells you to.

The dose of DHEA you should take will depend on your age, condition, and gender. Do not take more or less DHEA than your doctor tells you to.

You should not take DHEA if you have hormone-related cancer or a family history of hormone-related cancer, such as adrenal, breast, ovarian, prostate, or testicular cancer.
You should only take DHEA supplements as directed by your doctor.

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Lab Testing - Frequently Asked Questions

Why is it important to do lab tests occasionally?

It is important to do lab tests occasionally because they can provide valuable information about an individual's health and help to identify potential health issues early on. Lab tests can measure a wide range of factors, including blood count, cholesterol levels, liver and kidney function, and hormone levels, and can provide insight into an individual's overall health and wellness. Additionally, lab tests can help to diagnose and monitor the progression of certain medical conditions, such as diabetes and heart disease, and can help to identify any potential health risks or concerns. By doing lab tests occasionally, individuals can take proactive steps to maintain their health and wellbeing and reduce the risk of potential health problems in the future.

What does a routine blood test cover?

A routine blood test is used to check for a range of things, including your blood count and the levels of certain chemicals and substances in your blood. Blood tests can also be used to check how well certain organs, such as your liver and kidneys, are functioning.

How is a blood sample collected for lab testing?

A blood sample for lab testing is typically collected through a process called venipuncture, which involves inserting a small needle into a vein to draw blood. This is usually done on the inside of the elbow or the back of the hand.

What is the cost of a lab test?

In general, the cost of a lab test can range from a few dollars to several hundred dollars. It is always best to consult with your doctor or healthcare provider to get an accurate estimate of the cost of a lab test.

Read More: Lab Testing FAQ