Difference Between Eccrine and Apocrine Glands – What You Need To Know
When someone deals with abnormal or excessive sweating, he will most likely come across the two types of sweat glands that are causing us to sweat. Because there are different reasons why people sweat, it is important to understand which sweat glands cause what kind of sweating.
In this article, I am going to talk to you about the difference between eccrine and apocrine glands, which are the sweat glands that are located all over our body. I am also going to share what to do about your sweating.
Why Do We Sweat?
First of all, it is important to understand why we sweat.
Sweating is a natural process in our body that helps us to reduce and deal with all kinds of stress. For example, when the temperature of our body rises, our heart rate increases, which puts the body under stress. Our body knows that if the temperature continues to rise, it could lead to many things, including a heat stroke. Therefore, our brain is alarmed and looking for solutions.
The sweat glands are the ones that can help cool the body down. Whenever the temperature of our body up, our brain quickly signals the sweat glands to quickly produce sweat. Sweat evaporates through the pores of our skin and each sweat drop takes along a little heat, which quickly helps the body to maintain the temperature.
Sweating is, before anything else, the cooling system of our body! But that is not all.
When we are in great fear, in lots of pain, and suffering from depression, for example, our bodies are under great stress. And stress hormones are released into the bloodstream, which also makes our heart race, and our brain goes nuts. We also sweat under these circumstances because our sweat glands are triggered by the nervous system, by which our body can help to keep those nerves under control.
By nature, when we are nervous or in a panic attack, our body temperature quickly rises and in no time all our sweat glands are heavily busy to maintain the temperature, but also release that stress that is trying to build up in our body.
Therefore, sweating is a very important body function that not only maintains our body temperature but also helps our nervous system to become calm again.
The Eccrine and Apocrine Sweat Glands
We have two types of sweat glands in our body which serve different purposes.
In this next table, I am going to describe each one of them, where they are located, each of their functions, among other important things about them.
Eccrine Sweat Glands
Apocrine Sweat Glands
On what parts of the body are they?
|These are found all over the body, with higher concentrations in hands and feet. It is known that you will have around 300/cm². We humans have the highest concentration of these sweat glands compared to animals.
|The sweat glands are only found in a few parts of the human body: In our armpits, in the ear, in the areola of the breast, in the external genital area, and in the eyelids.
There are not nearly as many apocrine sweat glands per cm² as there are eccrine sweat glands. These glands concentrate more in places where many hair follicles are found, which I explain in another answer.
Where are they located?
|They are located in the dermis, which is close to the surface of the skin.||These sweat glands are located deep underneath the skin.|
What is the primary function of them?
|The eccrine sweat glands are responsible for temperature reduction in our bodies. When our body temperature goes over the regular 98.6 Fahrenheit degrees, our brain signals these sweat glands to produce sweat. Sweat evaporates and takes a little of the heat along with each drop.
The eccrine sweat glands also carry stored toxins away. It is a way of helping the kidneys and liver reduce excess toxins.
And there is another great function, it unclogs the pores from all the chemicals that you put daily onto your skin.
|There are modified versions or the so-called sister glands of the apocrine sweat glands. For example, in the areola of the breast, breastmilk is produce and in our ears, earwax is produced. However, in the other body parts, a fatty liquid is excreted because of emotional and psychological factors.
Its function is to reduce stressing factors, because our body needs to release that energy produced by stress somewhere, and one way this can be done is sweating through the apocrine sweat glands.
Sweat comes out periodically and happens not just because of emotional induction. Sweat from the apocrine sweat glands attracts the opposite sex, as much as in humans as in animals.
What is the secretion made of?
|Sweat from these glands consists of water, although small quantities of sodium chloride (salts) come along.||Sweat produced in the apocrine sweat glands is a fatty substance (earwax, breast milk, for example). It is mostly made of sialic acid.
Sweat itself is odorless, yet sweating stinks when bacteria that live there, feasts on this protein-loaded sweat and breaks it down.
How does the sweat come out?
|This watery fluid is pushed directly through the pores onto the skin. The secretory part of these glands is really small when compared to the apocrine sweat glands.||Since these sweat glands are located deep underneath the skin, they push out there sweat through a duct into the hair follicles and which then contract until the sweat comes out.
These sweat glands are large compared to the eccrine sweat glands and their secretory part is also large.
Who has these glands?
|Eccrine sweat glands are fully developed when an infant is born, which is why small babies can sweat the first day after being born.
Everybody has sweat glands, but in some cases, these are not active (a condition called hypohidrosis). As you age, your sweat glands become less and less active.
|These sweat glands are all over the body when an infant is born. However, they change over time and will eventually only be in the above-mentioned body parts.
These glands are not active until the onset of puberty, which explains why teenagers start to smell so bad when they reach that phase. These sweat glands also become less active as you age.
What are they good for?
|Eccrine sweat glands regulate the temperature of our body. If we could not sweat, we would be prone to heat strokes and other health issues.
Therefore, sweating is not only beneficial, but necessary for our whole body, but especially for our skin.
Sweating a lot means that bacteria and viruses on our skin are washed away in a timely manner before they can enter our body. Sweating is really an antibody.
|Unlike the eccrine sweat glands, these glands do not regulate or control body temperature. They release tension that is produced by emotional stress or psychological factors.
Because the modified versions of these sweat glands produce earwax, our ears are being protected and oiled all the time. And in breastfeeding moms, these sweat glands are responsible for a rich milk that feeds the baby.
However, that is not all, these sweat glands contain a substance that attracts the opposite sex. Although not perceivable, our brain immediately senses it. Therefore, sweat from these sweat glands stimulates the opposite sex.
That explains why people find each other attractive and hot even when they are sweaty.
When are these glands active?
|Since these sweat glands are responsible for temperature regulation, they get active only when our body temperature is raised. This can happen through induced sweating like fitness routines, working physically, being in the heat, relaxing in saunas, and others.
However, they can also become active when emotionally or psychologically induced through anxiety, panic attacks, fear, sexual stimulation, among others.
The latter ones are because most of them make our vital body organs being stressed, which produces heat in our bodies. Emotional induction seems to affect our palms and feet more than other body parts.
|These sweat glands are active periodically, as stated above. But the more emotions, the more sweat is going to be pushed out. People that get nervous tend to sweat a lot in their armpits. Also, people suffering from depression and anxiety also tend to have very active apocrine sweat glands.|
How much sweat do they produce?
|Both sweat glands produce as much sweat as much needed. The more these sweat glands are triggered, the more they will produce. For example, the apocrine sweat glands will produce an awful lot of more sweat when a person is sexually stimulated. And the person in the gym doing a rigorous exercise routine will also produce more sweat.
There is, however, a rare disorder in the sweat glands known as hyperhidrosis, a condition in which a person sweats more than 4 times the necessary amount.
Primary hyperhidrosis is when the sweat glands just do not know how much sweat to produce and there is no real reason behind it. Also, not a cure is found for this disorder. Around 2% of the population suffers from this condition.
However, secondary hyperhidrosis is when a person sweats excessively, but for a known reason. There are many reasons for a person to sweat excessively, namely heart disease, Parkinson’s disease, obesity, pregnancy, and others. It can also be induced by the foods that you consume (spicy foods trigger excessive sweating, etc.)
Can I Stop Sweating?
As you can see, sweating is not only necessary, it is good for your body! Sweating in normal quantities is also not embarrassing or annoying. However, things are different when you suffer from hyperhidrosis. In many cases, there is nothing you can do about it while you can find a solution in other cases. When you sweat excessively the worst thing is the embarrassment it causes.
You are living, depending on what type of hyperhidrosis you have, in constant embarrassment. I mean, who likes to sweat all over the body when sitting in the living room? Who wants to have completely wet palms when going to a social gathering? Nobody! But that is what happens when people suffer from primary or secondary hyperhidrosis.
If you suffer from secondary hyperhidrosis, you can (in many cases) find the cause and a cure for it. For instance, you can try to lose weight, if your excess weight is causing you to sweat more than necessary. When you are pregnant, you know it will go over as soon as your baby is born. If one of the side effects of cancer is excessive sweating, you know that it will stop if you beat cancer. The list could go on.
However, when you suffer from primary hyperhidrosis, things are quite different. Excessive sweating for no reason can be highly annoying. Running around with sweaty palms or huge sweat marks in your pits is not particularly attractive. You feel embarrassed all the time because you cannot be yourself.
Since there is nothing you can do about the condition, you need to find other solutions to reduce the emotional side effects that this causes.
My Story and Solutions
I have lived with primary hyperhidrosis ever since the onset of puberty and it is not cool. You can read about my story here. The good thing is that after years and years of searching for an answer, and even accepting the fact that I was confined to live with this condition for the rest of my life, I found the solution.
Every single day I use the Thompson Tee sweat proof undershirt because it soaks up all the sweat produced in my armpits before it can reach the outer layer of clothes. Although I do not sweat less by using this shirt, I can prevent the embarrassing sweat marks that come with excessive sweating in your pits. Also, I do not have to worry about what kind of clothes I wear, neither do I have to worry about having them spoiled in no time.
Although the Thompson Tee is a great solution to my primary hyperhidrosis, I also periodically use Sweatblock. This is a clinical strength antiperspirant which I apply into my armpits to block the apocrine and eccrine sweat glands temporarily but completely. I have been able to stop sweating for 7 days with just one application of Sweatblock.
Both of these products are absolute life-savers as they have given me back the confidence that I had been lacking for so many years.
We do sweat for a reason and it is good that we sweat because we would face quite a few health issues if we didn’t have the amazing sweat glands.
Summarizing, we learned that the eccrine sweat glands are primarily for temperature maintenance, while the apocrine glands help our body to deal with stress factors, and the modified versions feed babies and keep our ears healthy. Both have different functions, and they are both important for our bodies.
That is it for now. I hope you learned something new today. Did you know the difference between eccrine and apocrine glands? If so, of which difference were you aware of and which ones not? Please leave me a comment, question, experience, or opinion below.
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