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What Is a DHEA Test?

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  • Written By: YaShekia King
  • Edited By: E. E. Hubbard
  • Last Modified Date: 23 November 2016
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A DHEA test confirms whether a person’s adrenal glands are functioning correctly. DHEA, formally known as dehydroepiandrosterone, is a steroid secreted by the adrenal glands, which produce hormones that help an individual to handle varying levels of stress. An expert in the healthcare field performs a DHEA test when a patient is experiencing particular physical problems, and the exam involves drawing blood from a person using a needle. The healthcare provider then analyzes the results of the test to determine if an individual has normal amounts of DHEA in his or her body. If not, the patient could be suffering from one of a wide range of diseases.

A DHEA test is administered when an individual is struggling with various unhealthy physical conditions. For instance, a doctor might choose to conduct the test if a woman lacks monthly menstrual periods or if she has trouble becoming pregnant due to reproductive system issues. Sometimes a woman produces too many androgens, which are sex hormones, therefore resulting in thinning hair or acne. This also is a reason for undergoing a DHEA test.

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Needles used to draw blood are involved in the medical testing procedure. A patient can expect to have a needle injected into the back of his or her hand or inside his or her elbow when completing a DHEA test. Healthcare professionals typically use lancets, or small needles, for collecting blood from babies. These workers tie elastic tourniquets around people’s blood collection sites in order to identify a viable vein and then wipe the areas down with a liquid that kills germs before injecting the needles and depositing the gathered blood into vials.

The results of the blood-drawing process help doctors to know if a patient requires further medical treatment. A rise in the presence of DHEA could point to cancer of the adrenal glands. In addition, a woman might have an irregular number of female sex hormones — a condition known as polycystic ovary syndrome — and therefore need to take medications such as birth control pills if her DHEA levels are too high.

Several other problems can be linked with abnormal outcomes from this type of healthcare exam. For instance, the lack of DHEA in a person may be associated with osteoporosis, or bone loss, as well as multiple sclerosis — a disorder that negatively impacts the spinal cord and brain. In addition, health experts connect obesity, heart disease, and even breast cancer with low amounts of DHEA in the body.

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