Sweat Gland: Facts, Symptoms & Causes

picture of sweating woman


Sweat glands, also known as sudoriferous or sudoriparous glands, from Latin sudor, meaning “sweat”, are small tubular structures of the skin that produce sweat. Sweat glands are a type of exocrine gland, which are glands that produce and secrete substances onto an epithelial surface by way of a duct. There are two main types of sweat glands that differ in their structure, function, secretory product, mechanism of excretion, anatomic distribution, and distribution across species:

  • Eccrine sweat glands are distributed almost all over the human body, in varying densities. Its water-based secretion represents a primary form of cooling in humans.
  • Apocrine sweat glands are mostly limited to the axilla (armpits) and perianal areas in humans. They are not significant for cooling in humans, but are the sole effective sweat glands in hoofed animals, such as the camels, donkeys, horses, and cattle.

Key Points

  • Sweat glands are located deep within the skin and they primarily function in temperature regulation.
  • The two main types of sweat glands are eccrine sweat glands and apocrine sweat glands.
  • Eccrine sweat glands are smaller sweat glands that do not extend into the dermis. They are coiled tubular glands that discharge their secretions directly onto the surface of the skin.
  • Apocrine sweat glands are coiled tubular glands that produce a viscous, cloudy and potentially odorous secretion. These sweat glands discharge in the canals of hair follicles. They begin secreting at puberty; the sweat produced may be acted upon by bacteria, causing a noticeable odor.
  • Sweat is composed of water and salts various salts and organic compounds in solution.

Symptoms of Sweat Gland

Some people naturally sweat more or less than other people. Body odor also can vary from person to person. But you should see a doctor if:

  • You suddenly begin to sweat much more or less than usual
  • Sweating disrupts your daily routine
  • You experience night sweats for no apparent reason
  • You notice a change in your body odor

Causes of Sweat Gland

Your skin has two main types of sweat glands: eccrine glands and apocrine glands. Eccrine glands occur over most of your body and open directly onto the surface of the skin. Apocrine glands develop in areas abundant in hair follicles, such as your armpits and groin, and they empty into the hair follicle just before it opens onto the skin surface.

When your body temperature rises, your eccrine glands secrete fluid onto the surface of your skin, where it cools your body as it evaporates. This fluid is composed mainly of water and salt.

Apocrine glands, on the other hand, produce a milky fluid that most commonly is secreted when you’re under emotional stress. This fluid is odorless until it combines with bacteria found normally on your skin.

Which structure is a type of SUDORIFEROUS gland?

They are ten times smaller than apocrine sweat glands, do not extend as deeply into the dermis, and excrete directly onto the surface of the skin. The proportion of eccrine glands decreases with age. The clear secretion produced by eccrine sweat glands is termed sweat or sensible perspiration.

Which glands produce sweat?

Modified apocrine glands include the ciliary glands in the eyelids; the ceruminous glands, which produce ear wax; and the mammary glands, which produce milk. The rest of the body is covered by eccrine sweat glands. Most non-primate mammals, however, have apocrine sweat glands over the greater part of their body.