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Dehydroepiandrosterone, DHEA-S


DHEA-S (dehydroepiandrosterone) is a hormone produced by the part of the adrenal glands controlled by ACTH, a hormone of the pituitary gland (small gland at the base of the brain). DHEA-S is used in the production of other hormones such as androstenedione, testosterone and estradiol, which control the development of secondary sex characteristics. High levels of DHEA-S can cause symptoms in women such as the stoppage of menstruation and the appearance of signs of virilization: hoarse voice, hirsutism (increase in facial and/or body hair), male-pattern hair loss, etc. Levels of DHEA-S (and of cortisol) are useful in assessing proper adrenal gland function. Results are expressed in micromoles of DHEA-S per litre of blood (µmol/L)

Normal levels of DHEA-S and other male hormones indicate that the adrenal glands are probably functioning normally. High levels of DHEA-S indicate a probable adrenal gland disorder (hyperplasia, tumour or adrenal cancer, Cushing’s syndrome, etc.) that needs to be specifically identified by other tests. Levels are also sometimes high in polycystic ovary syndrome and rare ovarian tumours. Low DHEA-S levels may be due to adrenal insufficiency (Addison’s disease, pituitary gland defect, etc.)

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