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What Does It Mean if Your DHEA Is High?

A high DHEA level could be sign of adrenal conditions

DHEA (dehydroepiandrosterone) is a hormone produced by your adrenal glands, located on the top of each kidney. Some DHEA is also produced by the testes and ovaries, and plays an important role in the production of the male sex hormone testosterone and the female sex hormone estrogen. DHEA also has a role in the making of insulin growth factor-1 that controls muscle growth and insulin sensitivity.

High DHEA levels could mean you have:

  • Adrenal cancer
  • Benign or cancerous tumors in the adrenal gland
  • Polycystic ovary syndrome (a common condition in women under 50)
  • Congenital adrenal hyperplasia, which is a common genetic disorder

What are symptoms of high DHEA?

While men may not have any symptoms of high DHEA, women may experience signs and symptoms such as:

  • Acne
  • Deep voice
  • Hirsutism (a lot of hair growth on the face and body)
  • Hair loss at the top of the head
  • Increased muscle mass
  • Irregular menses
  • Sterility

What does it mean if your DHEA is low?

DHEA levels normally decline with age in both men and women. However, a low level of DHEA may indicate:

  • Addison’s disease (adrenal glands don’t make enough of certain hormones)
  • Hypopituitarism (pituitary gland doesn’t make enough of its hormones)
  • Dementia
  • Trouble getting or keeping an erection
  • Vaginal atrophy (thinning and dryness of the vaginal tissues)
  • Low sex drive
  • Osteoporosis or weakened bones

Lupus

AIDS

Chronic fatigue syndrome

Crohn’s disease

What is a DHEA test used for?

A DHEA test measures the level of DHEA and DHEA sulfate (DHEA-S) in your blood and is mainly used to:

  • Check whether your adrenal glands are functioning properly.
  • Diagnose tumors in the adrenal glands.
  • Diagnose problems in testes or ovaries.
  • Identify the cause of early puberty in boys.
  • Identify the cause of hirsutism and masculine features in women and girls.

A DHEA test is often accompanied by other hormone tests, such as testosterone tests or estrogen tests.

What do my DHEA test results mean?

Test results may vary depending on factors such as your age, gender, health history and the method used for the test..

  • Normal DHEA level: Your adrenal glands are working well.
  • High DHEA level: Your body is producing too much of the hormones. Excess hormone production could be related to adrenal cancer, tumors or adrenal hyperplasia (overgrowth of adrenal hormone-producing tissue).
  • Low DHEA level: Your adrenal glands are not making enough of the hormones, which could be caused by damage to the adrenal glands or diseased pituitary glands.

Medically Reviewed on 5/12/2021

References

WebMD. What Is a DHEA Test? https://www.webmd.com/healthy-aging/aging-dhea-test#1

University of Rochester Medical Center. Dehydroepiandrosterone and Dehydroepiandrosterone Sulfate. https://www.urmc.rochester.edu/encyclopedia/content.aspx?contenttypeid=167&contentid=dhea

Medline Plus. DHEA Sulfate Test. https://medlineplus.gov/lab-tests/dhea-sulfate-test/

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