DHEA levels begin increasing at approximately age seven and decline in the 30's. The adrenals secrete DHEA (and cortisol) under the control of ACTH, with a smaller amount being generated by the testes through LH stimulation.
In women and children, excess DHEA can indirectly lead to virilization and hirsutism, as it is metabolized into stronger androgens such as testosterone. DHEA measurements are important when investigating the source of excess androgens (hyperandrogenism) in cases of hirsutism, alopecia, infertility, and amenorrhea. It is also of value in the assessment of adrenarche and delayed puberty. High levels of DHEA are often encountered in polycystic ovary syndrome, adrenal hyperplasia and adrenal tumors.
In men, high levels of DHEA are often encountered in adrenal hyperplasia and adrenal tumors.