DHEAS Hormone Function and PCOS

Dehydroepiandrosterone sulfate (DHEAS) is a form of the hormone DHEA that tends to be slightly elevated in people with polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS). If your healthcare provider suspects or is monitoring your PCOS, they may order a blood test to measure your levels.

The amount of DHEAS in your blood can help your provider evaluate PCOS and rule out other medical conditions that have similar symptoms.

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Changes In DHEAS Levels

DHEAS is secreted by the adrenal glands and is the most abundant circulating steroid hormone in humans. It is converted into either estrogen or testosterone in the body.

DHEAS levels change throughout stages of development:

  • DHEAS is secreted by a developing fetus in large quantities while still in utero.
  • Within a few weeks after birth, these levels drop by roughly 80%.
  • DHEAS rises again shortly before the onset of puberty—a time that is known as adrenarche.
  • DHEAS levels then increase, peaking around age 20 to 30 and declining over the next several decades.

Almost all of the DHEA circulating in the bloodstream is in the form of DHEAS.

Abnormal levels:

  • In young females, early adrenarche is linked to an increased risk of PCOS.
  • In females, moderately high levels of DHEAS can cause symptoms of hyperandrogenism, one of the primary symptoms of PCOS.

Extreme elevations of the hormone may indicate another cause, such as an androgen-producing adrenal tumor.

Normal Levels

Roughly 20% to 30% of people with PCOS have elevated DHEAS levels.

Normal DHEAS levels vary by age and gender.

Normal levels in females:

  • 18- and 19-year-olds: 145 to 395 micrograms per deciliter (mcg/dL)
  • 20s: 65 and 380 mcg/dL
  • 30s: 45 to 270 mcg/dL
  • 40s: 32 to 240 mcg/dL
  • 50s: 26 to 200 mcg/dL
  • 60s: 13 to 130 mcg/dL
  • After age 69: 17 to 90 mcg/dL

Throughout the course of your treatment for PCOS, a healthcare provider may measure your DHEAS and other hormones. Changes in your level or in your other hormone levels might be indicative of changes in your PCOS, and how the condition may affect your health and fertility.


Since DHEAS levels naturally decline with age, some females take DHEA supplements, which are purported to reduce signs of aging, improve bone density, ease depression and improve libido.​

However, the existing data shows that while it may help depression, it does not appear to improve bone health, quality of life, or sexual function in older adults.

In fact, it may be unsafe when used orally in high doses or long term. There is concern that higher than normal DHEA levels may increase the risk of breast cancer or other hormone-sensitive cancers.

Medications and DHEAS Levels

Several medications can alter your DHEAS level.

  • Insulin, oral contraception, corticosteroids, certain central nervous system drugs (like carbamazepine, clomipramine, imipramine, and phenytoin), many statins, dopaminergic drugs (such as levodopa/dopamine and bromocriptine), fish oil, and vitamin E may reduce DHEAS levels.
  • Drugs that may increase DHEAS levels include metformin, danazol, calcium channel blockers, and nicotine.

These changes are typically not significant enough to impact the clinical treatment of PCOS or create confusion in diagnosing PCOS or secondary conditions.

6 Sources
Verywell Health uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
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  4. Lerchbaum E, Schwetz V, Giuliani A, Pieber TR, Obermayer-Pietsch B. Opposing effects of dehydroepiandrosterone sulfate and free testosterone on metabolic phenotype in women with polycystic ovary syndrome. Fertil Steril. 2012 Nov;98(5):1318-25.e1. doi:10.1016/j.fertnstert.2012.07.1057

  5. Elraiyah T, Sonbol MB, Wang Z, et al. Clinical review: The benefits and harms of systemic dehydroepiandrosterone (DHEA) in postmenopausal women with normal adrenal function: a systematic review and meta-analysis. J Clin Endocrinol Metab. 2014;99(10):3536-3542. doi:10.1210/jc.2014-2261

  6. Charoensri S, Chailurkit L, Muntham D, Bunnag P. Serum dehydroepiandrosterone sulfate in assessing the integrity of the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal axisJ Clin Transl Endocrinol. 2017;7:42–46. doi:10.1016/j.jcte.2017.01.001

By Nicole Galan, RN
Nicole Galan, RN, is a registered nurse and the author of "The Everything Fertility Book."