Anatomy & Organs

Sweat Glands – Structure, Function & Diseases

Sweat glands

The sweat glands are located in the skin and ensure that sweat formed there is excreted through the same. They have the task of regulating the heat balance of the body. In some parts of the body there are so-called scent glands that secrete sweat, which has the typical smell. In all other places the sweat is odorless.

What are sweat glands?

Sweat glands are distributed throughout the human body in the skin. They mostly produce odorless sweat, which is excreted through the skin.

This is done to regulate heat in the organism. However, some sweat glands also produce sweat, which is noticeable due to its typical smell. This type only develops during puberty and is often associated with the sebaceous glands. In the animal kingdom, the secreted smell is also used to mark territory or to control sexual behavior.

Under certain circumstances, diseases of the sweat glands can develop, such as a lack of sweating or excessive sweating . Benign ulcers or abscesses can also form on the glands, which need to be opened and/or removed by a doctor.

Anatomy & Structure

The human sweat glands are divided into two groups. The so-called eccrine sweat glands are located in the dermis below the epidermis . They are about 0.4 mm in size and distributed all over the body.

Each gland is covered by a thick membrane. They are not related to the body hair. The apocrine sweat glands, on the other hand, are closely connected to the hair follicles. In contrast to the eccrine glands, they are significantly larger at 3 – 5 mm and lie deeper in the skin, more precisely in the subcutaneous tissue. They only develop during puberty and are also known as scent glands because they produce sweat, which is characterized by its typical scent.

In total, humans have around 2-4 million eccrine sweat glands, which vary in concentration depending on the region of the body. Most glands are found on the soles of the feet, fewer on the thighs.

Function & Tasks

The eccrine sweat glands primarily serve to regulate the body’s temperature. If people are in a warm environment or if their body temperature rises as a result of physical exertion, for example, they sweat. This is excreted through the pores and cools the body down.

How much sweat has to be produced depends on how much the temperature rises. The sweat that the eccrine glands secrete is basically odorless. It consists of water, table salt and fatty acids as well as nitrogenous substances. For this reason, excreting sweat is also a minor detoxification process. Antibacterial substances and a slight acidity in sweat ensure healthy and supple skin and the maintenance of an optimal pH value.

The apocrine sweat glands release not only the sweat itself, but also certain scents. These are decisive for the individual body odor and play a not inconsiderable role in social and sexual behavior.

They are only in certain skin regions such as in the armpit or in the genital area. Sweating occurs here not only when temperatures rise, but also as a result of emotional stress such as fear or excitement.

Diseases & Ailments

Sweat glands rarely lead to serious health problems. However, they can have an over- or under-function, for example. An inability to produce sweat is called anhidrosis .

This can lead to difficulties in regulating heat, which can lead to circulatory problems , among other things . Excessive perspiration ( hyperhidrosis ) is usually felt to be very uncomfortable for those affected. In this case, the sweat glands can be sclerosed by the doctor so that profuse sweating does not occur even at low temperatures.

In some cases, the sweat or sebum glands can become blocked, which can result in abscesses or even benign growths (adenomas). These can be opened by the doctor and/or surgically removed. Although such growths are not dangerous, they can affect the well-being of the affected person and should therefore be treated.

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Hello! I am Lisa Newlon, and I am a medical writer and researcher with over 10 years of experience in the healthcare industry. I have a Master’s degree in Medicine, and my deep understanding of medical terminology, practices, and procedures has made me a trusted source of information in the medical world.