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What is a Sudoriferous Gland?

By Greer Hed
Updated May 17, 2024
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A sudoriferous gland, or simply sweat gland, is an exocrine gland in the human body responsible for producing perspiration, or sweat. The average person has between two and four million of these glands located in the dermis, or second layer of skin, throughout the body. Each gland has a coiled portion located beneath the skin that produces sweat, and a hollow tube portion that connects the gland to pores on the surface of the skin. There are two types of sweat gland: eccrine sweat glands, also called merocrine sweat glands, which are found all over the body; and apocrine sweat glands, which are found only in the armpits and genital area.

When stimulated by exercise, heat, or nerve signals, an eccrine sudoriferous gland secretes a clear, watery fluid that is similar in chemical composition to plasma. The fluid from the coiled portion of the gland then travels up the hollow duct portion towards the surface of the skin. As the perspiration fluid travels up this duct, two things can occur. In conditions where the person sweating is either in a cool place or at rest, the ducts absorb a large amount of the fluid and only a small amount of sweat reaches the surface of the skin. If the person sweating is hot or engaged in physical activity, the ducts cannot absorb the fluid quickly enough and a larger volume of sweat makes its way to the skin's surface.

An apocrine sudoriferous gland is different from the eccrine type of gland in many ways. Eccrine sweat glands are smaller and terminate in openings called pores. Apocrine sweat glands usually terminate in a hair follicle instead. The eccrine glands produce sweat from birth, while the apocrine glands are activated later in life, usually around the time of puberty. Sweat secreted by an apocrine sudoriferous gland is thick and cloudy and contains proteins and fatty acids that can be affected by various kinds of bacteria, which can cause unpleasant odors. Apocrine sweat gland secretions might also contain chemical messengers called pheromones.

The sudoriferous glands are important for the functioning of the human body because sweat is the body's primary natural cooling mechanism. Sweat that travels all the way to the skin's surface eventually evaporates, causing overall body temperature to decrease. Heat and exertion are not the only causes of sweating; emotional upset or stress can also cause a person to sweat by stimulating nerves that send signals to the sweat glands. The apocrine glands under the arms are particularly stimulated by stress, as are the eccrine glands in the palms of the hands.

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Discussion Comments
By googlefanz — On Jan 12, 2011

Have you guys ever heard about meibomian glands? They are a special kind of sebaceous gland that exist on the inside of your eyelids. Though they are similar in structure to sudoriferous glands, they function a little differently -- namely, to keep the eye's supply of meibum, a fatty substance going to keep the eye from drying out.

This is also why closed eyes are more or less watertight, and you don't continuously have tears spilling down your cheeks.

I just recently researched this for a class on glands and hormones, and as soon as I read this article about sudoriferous glands I just had to whip out my new knowledge! How cool is the human body that it has so many different kinds of glands that all do different things?

By pharmchick78 — On Jan 10, 2011

@copperpipe -- Hi. I believe what you are trying to understand is the condition of bromhidrosis, or basically, body odor.

What bromohidrosis is is essentially the smell of bacteria growing on the body. Interestingly enough, people tend to have their own unique blend, so if humans noses were developed enough, we could identify people by their BO!

However, to get back to your question, it looks like some people are simply more genetically prone to bromhidrosis than others; sometimes there's simply nothing a person can do about it other than try to keep from aggravating the condition further.

And while sebum glands are affected by excess sweat, there's no causality there.

I hope that helped clear this up for you!

By CopperPipe — On Jan 08, 2011

Could you give me some more information as to what could cause your sudoriferous glands to overact, as in the case of body odor?

It has always confused me as to why some people could walk around their whole life without really sweating or having BO, but some people seem to just have crazy sweat all the time.

I used to think that this had something to do with the sebaceous glands, you know, the ones that cause you to have pimples, but then someone else told me that it had to do with the endocrine system and the glands there.

Now reading this it seems like it has to do with these sudoriferous glands -- could you clear this area up for me some more?

Thanks.

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