Definition of Sweat Glands

sweat glandsStructures within the dermis layer of the skin that produce sweat as part of the body’s temperature-regulation mechanisms. There are two kinds of sweat glands-eccrine and apocrine, both of which arise from the dermis.

Eccrine Sweat Glands

Eccrine sweat glands are functional from shortly after birth and are present in all skin. An individual has between two and three million eccrine sweat glands that produce about 20 liters of sweat in 24 hours and can double or triple their production rate during strenuous exercise or heat conditions.

Eccrine sweat glands open through pores directly onto the surface of the skin (pores), releasing sweat for rapid evaporation to cool the skin and lower body temperature.

Apocrine Sweat Glands

Apocrine sweat glands are present only under the arms and in the pubic region, though are abundant in these regions. Although present from birth, they are nonfunctional until puberty activates them. the apocrine sweat glands empty into hair follicles rather than directly onto the skin’s surface.

The sweat the apocrine glands produce contains lipids and proteins, which helps the sweat mix with the sebaceous fluids in the hair follicles to reach the skin’s surface. Bacteria on the surface of the skin consume the lipids and proteins, creating waste byproducts that produce the characteristic odor associated with sweating.

For further discussion of integumentary structure and function please see the overview section “The Integumentary System.”


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