DHEAS Hormone Function and PCOS

DHEAS, or dehydroepiandrosterone sulfate, is a form of the androgenic hormone DHEA that has a sulfate molecule (one sulfur and four oxygen atoms) attached to it. Almost all of the DHEA circulating in the bloodstream is in the form of DHEAS.

Blood levels of DHEAS tend to be slightly elevated in women with polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS). A healthcare provider may measure a woman's serum (blood) levels of this steroid to rule out other medical conditions that have similar symptoms to PCOS.

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Throughout Your Lifespan

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.

While still in utero, DHEAS is secreted by the fetus in large quantities. Within a few weeks after birth, these levels drop by roughly 80%, only to rise again shortly before the onset of puberty, a period known as adrenarche.

In young women, early adrenarche is linked to an increased risk of PCOS . Following adrenarche, DHEAS levels increase, peaking around age 20 to 30, then declining over the next several decades.

In women, moderately high levels of DHEAS can cause symptoms of hyperandrogenism, one of the primary symptoms of PCOS. Pronounced elevations of the hormone may indicate another cause, such as an androgen producing adrenal tumor.

Testing Your Levels

Roughly 20% to 30% of women with PCOS have elevated DHEAS levels. Throughout the course of your treatment for PCOS, a healthcare provider may measure your DHEAS and other hormones.

Normal DHEAS levels vary by age and gender. In women, normal levels in 18- and 19-year-olds range from 145 to 395 micrograms per deciliter (mcg/dL), before declining. In your 20s, DHEAS levels range between 65 and 380 mcg.

For 30-something women, normal levels range from 45 to 270 mcg/dL, with levels further dropping to 32 to 240 mcg/dL in your 40s. Levels vary from 26 to 200 mcg/dL in your 50s, from 13 to 130 mcg/dL in your 60s and from 17 to 90 mcg/dL after age 69.

Since DHEAS levels naturally decline with age, some women 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.

(Natural Medicines, DHEA professional monograph). 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 May Alter 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, however, are typically not significant enough to impact 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. 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 Oct;99(10):3536-42. doi: 10.1210/jc.2014-2261

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