Types of Glands: Everything You Need to Know About the Exocrine, Endocrine Glands and Their Functions

It is the name given to an organ whose function is to produce and release chemical substances that help the human body in one way or another.

The glands are tasked with helping to create the substance that they then secrete for later use or total elimination from the body.

Types of glands

Two types of glands in the human body are subdivided into several other glands.

These two main glands found in the human body are the exocrine glands and the endocrine glands.

The exocrine glands

They are glands with a duct that connects them to the body’s surface, and the products they produce are released through these ducts.

Some examples of these glands are the sweat glands, the salivary glands, the mammary glands, and others.

The endocrine glands

These glands form a part of the body’s endocrine system. They are not attached to the body’s surface since they do not have conduits.

They release products that form directly in the bloodstream. Some examples of the endocrine glands are the pineal, thyroid, and adrenal glands, among others.



The function of the glands is to secrete substances such as enzymes and hormones that help in the growth and development of the body.

The following are the glands present in the body and their specific functions related to the body.

Exocrine glands

As mentioned above, these glands have ducts that connect them to the body’s surface, and the products produced by these glands are collected in these ducts and released to the surface of the body as sweat or tears.

Some of the glands that fall into the category of exocrine glands are:

Sweat gland and its function

These glands are also known as sweat glands. These glands are present on the entire surface of the body.

The primary function of these glands is to regulate the body’s function.

For example, if the weather is too warm outside, the temperature of the body increases, then the sweat glands release the sweat that cools the body.

The sweat glands are further divided into two types: the eccrine sweat glands and the apocrine sweat glands.

The eccrine sweat glands are minor and do not spread to the body’s surface.

These glands are rolled and tubular and discharge their secretions directly on the skin’s surface.

The apocrine sweat glands are spiral and tubular, releasing a gray tone and secretion with an odor.

These secretions produce an odor when they act on the bacteria in the atmosphere.

This is the cause of a foul odor that is especially noticeable in the armpits or on the sole in sweltering conditions.

Salivary gland and its function

The primary function of this gland is to produce saliva that begins the digestion of food in the body.

These glands are subdivided into three categories: parotid glands, submandibular glands, and sublingual glands.

The parotid glands are present below and in front of the ears. These glands are the largest of all salivary glands. The submandibular glands are located just below the jaw.

The sublingual glands are present on the floor of the mouth between the tongue and the jaw. They release their secretions directly in the mouth.

The saliva in our mouths is the digestive secretion produced by these glands.

The functions of saliva are to keep the mouth and tongue moisten the food, so it swallows easily and passes smoothly through the esophagus into the stomach.

Saliva also dissolves part of the food, thus stimulating the taste buds. It also has the function of keeping the mouth clean.

The mammary gland and its functions

This gland is present in the breasts of females, and its primary function is lactation or milk production.

This glandular tissue is present in both men and women, but in women, this tissue begins to develop after reaching puberty due to the release of estrogen.

Mammary glands produce milk only after the birth of a baby. The hormones progesterone and prolactin are released when a woman is pregnant.

Progesterone reacts with prolactin and prevents these glands from producing milk. During this period, a minimal amount of a substance called colostrum is produced.

This substance is extremely rich in antibodies and nutrients and is helpful for the baby in the first days of life.

After the child’s birth, the level of progesterone in the body begins to decrease while the levels of prolactin remain increased, which allows the mammary glands to produce milk.

After each feeding, the milk in the breast ends and only replenishes.

Once a woman passes the reproductive age and reaches menopause, the degeneration of this gland occurs, and, therefore, the gland loses its ability to produce milk.

Lacrimal gland and its functions

The function of this gland is to produce tears and keep the eyes’ surface moist.

They also act as a lubricant for the eyelids. They help remove or eliminate any foreign body that can enter the eye from the outside atmosphere, such as dust.

These glands act and release tears when an individual is emotionally charged, either very happy or very sad, which causes tears to roll from the eyes.

The sebaceous gland and its functions

The function of the sebaceous glands is to produce an oily substance called sebum that keeps the skin moist.

The sebaceous glands are close to the beautiful ones in the sebaceous follicles.

Hormones that produce physical changes after puberty cause these glands to produce more oil.

This oil released by the gland sometimes reacts with dead cells on the body’s surface, causing a blockage on the skin’s pore, resulting in what is known as a pimple.

Endocrine glands

As explained above, these glands produce hormones released directly into the bloodstream. They do not have conduits connecting them to the body’s surface.

Below are the glands that form the endocrine glands and their functions in detail.

The pineal gland and its functions

This gland is located in a small cavity just above the back of the pituitary gland, right in the middle of the brain.

Sometimes it is also known as the controller’s gland. The pineal gland’s function is to promote the growth of the body and control the sexual glands.

It is sometimes called the controlling gland because it controls the functioning of the other glands. It also helps to neutralize the effect of light on the color of the skin.

The pituitary gland and its functions

This gland is located just at the base of the brain and joins the hypothalamus.

This gland needs help from other glands to function and is activated when other glands experience a malfunction and when there are increased secretions from other glands, this gland reduces secretions.

The function of the pituitary gland is to promote the growth and development of the bones and muscles of the body. An increase or decrease in this gland’s functioning decides an individual’s height and weight.

The pineal gland also activates the seminal cells in men and the ovary in women.

The pineal gland also helps produce milk in the mammary glands after the birth of a child. This gland also works by telling the kidneys to absorb more fluids.

The thyroid gland and its functions

The location of the thyroid gland is at the upper end of the bronchial tube, which is close to the vocal cords. This gland absorbs iodine that is required by the body.

Since this gland absorbs iodine, it uses it to metabolize fats, carbohydrates, and proteins, which helps the digestion of food.

Iron is also released through this gland and is very useful for the body. The nerves use the released phosphorus.

The parathyroid gland and its functions

The location of the parathyroid gland is above and below the thyroid gland adjacent to the vocal cords.

The thyroid gland protects the parathyroid gland, but in no way are they the same as the thyroid gland in structure or function.

The function of the parathyroid gland is to control the amount of calcium in the blood and play a vital role in activating the muscles and nervous system.

The thymus glands and their functions

This gland is located behind the junction of the clavicle and the neck, in the middle of the chest. The primary function of the thymus gland is to control the development until the individual reaches puberty.

This gland also does not allow the sexual glands to grow until the person reaches puberty.

This gland also plays a vital role in brain development and facilitates eliminating waste products from the body.

The adrenal glands and their functions

These glands are present above the kidneys and are attached to the diaphragm. The secretions of the adrenal glands are highly essential to sustain life.

The hormones it releases help cure many diseases such as gout, blood circulation problems, colon defects, asthma, etc.

The adrenal gland also facilitates emotional changes in an individual. The adrenal gland is so important that it is impossible to imagine life without it.

Another function of the adrenal gland is to help in metabolism. This gland promotes the contraction and expansion of different muscles and arteries of the heart.

In a crisis, this gland acts and sends an emergency signal in the body, thus preparing the body to face the situation and making us emotionally strong to face the situation.