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What are Sweat Glands?

Nicole Madison
Updated Mar 03, 2024
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Sweat glands are tubes in which sweat is produced and then transported to the surface of the skin. Many people think of sweat as rather unpleasant, but it does serve an important purpose. Also referred to as perspiration, sweat serves to cool the body off. To perform this purpose well, sweat glands are spread all over the body, with the exception of places like the lips, parts of the genitals, and a person’s nipples. In all, each person typically has more than two million sweat glands.

Each gland consists of a hollow tube, which is long and coiled in a ball at its base. The coiled base of the gland is located in the dermis, which is the second layer of skin. A person’s sweat is produced in this coiled part of the gland. Then, the long section of the gland that extends from the coiled portion, often referred to as a duct, allows the sweat to move from the base toward the surface of the skin. In order to exit the gland and move out to the skin, however, the sweat needs an opening through which to move; this opening is called a pore, which is a tiny hole on the skin.

The human body has two different types of sweat glands. First, there are eccrine glands, which are the most common type. They are located all over the body, especially in a person’s forehead, neck, back, palms, and feet. These glands produce sweat when a person becomes hot because of external heat, fever, exercise, and even emotional upset. The sweat glands in the palms and soles of the feet are particularly likely to react in stressful situations.

The apocrine glands, on the other hand, are a bit different. The ending points of these glands are usually not pores; these glands end in hair follicles instead. As such, they are usually concentrated in areas that have hair, such as the armpits, around the anus, and the external genital areas. These glands respond mostly to emotional stress of some type and also produce sweat when a person is upset or sexually excited.

Interestingly, the apocrine glands may be responsible for much of a person’s body odor after forgetting deodorant or following intense exercise. This is because the secretions from these glands have a scent. In fact, apocrine glands are sometimes referred to as scent glands.

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Nicole Madison
By Nicole Madison , Writer
Nicole Madison's love for learning inspires her work as a The Health Board writer, where she focuses on topics like homeschooling, parenting, health, science, and business. Her passion for knowledge is evident in the well-researched and informative articles she authors. As a mother of four, Nicole balances work with quality family time activities such as reading, camping, and beach trips.

Discussion Comments

By burcinc — On Feb 14, 2011

@alisha-- If you sweat from your face, hands and armpits, your sweat glands might be overworking. You should go to the doctor and have it checked out. Your doctor can find out the underlying cause, because there can be many different reasons for it.

My brother had excessive sweating several years ago, his problem was an overactive thyroid. I know it can be embarrassing to deal with. But it happens to a lot of people and its treatable. Just keep some extra clothes with you at work and exercise. Also drink lots of liquids until its diagnosed and treated so that you are not dehydrated.

By discographer — On Feb 12, 2011

Is excessive sweat cause by gland problems? I have had this problem lately, but I don't know if I should go to the doctor for it. I'm not overweight or in menopause, but lately I find myself sweating even when doing nothing. When I exercise, its much worse. It's becoming very bothersome, not just the physical discomfort of it, but also when I hug my kids or when I make a presentation at work. I'm very careful about my hygiene which makes me even more conscious about the sweating. Could there be something wrong with my sweat glands?

By ddljohn — On Feb 10, 2011

I was warned by my pharmacist not to use antiperspirants because of the way they affect your sweat glands. I believe she said that the aluminum in antiperspirants clog pores and prevent sweating. And if pores are clogged, underarm sweat glands cannot remove toxins. I also did some reading on it and found out that these toxins could mutate into cancer if they build up. I threw out my antiperspirant after that. Now I use an aluminum free one or a deodorant.

Nicole Madison

Nicole Madison


Nicole Madison's love for learning inspires her work as a The Health Board writer, where she focuses on topics like...
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