What are glands? Anatomy and Function (2023)

Glands are important organs found throughout the body. They produce and release substances that perform certain functions. Although you have many glands throughout your body, they are divided into two types: endocrine and exocrine.

Endocrine and exocrine glands serve very different purposes in the body.

Endocrine glands

Endocrine glands are part of your endocrine system. They make hormones and release them into your bloodstream. These hormones control a number of important functions in your body, including:

  • your growth and development
  • metabolism
  • disposal
  • reproduction

Your endocrine glands include:

  • adrenal glands
  • mucosa
  • hypothalamus
  • thyroid
  • epiphysis

There are also organs that contain endocrine tissue and function as glands. These include:

  • pancreas
  • kidneys
  • ovaries
  • bullocks

Exocrine glands

Your exocrine glands produce other substances—not hormones—that are released through ducts to the outside of your body, such as sweat, saliva, and tears.

(Video) What is a gland? - Human Anatomy | Kenhub

The substances released by your exocrine glands play an important role in your body. They do things like help regulate your body temperature, protect your skin and eyes, and even help mothers feed babies by producing breast milk.

Your exocrine glands include:

  • salivary
  • sweat
  • mammary
  • adipose
  • lacrimal

Lymph nodes are often referred to as glands, but they are not true glands. It is part of youimmune systemand help your body fight infection.

You have glands all over your body, they all vary in size and function. Here are some examples of these glands and what they do.

Thyroid gland

Your thyroid gland is located in the front of your neck, just below your larynx. It is about two inches in size and shaped like a butterfly. It secretes hormones that affect almost every tissue in your body. Thyroid hormones regulate your metabolism, heart and digestive function. They also play a role in your brain and nerve development, muscle control, and mood.

Your thyroid function is controlled by your pituitary gland, which is a small gland at the base of your brain.

Mucous membrane

The pituitary gland is a pea-sized gland at the base of your brain, just behind the bridge of your nose. It is controlled by the hypothalamus, which is located directly above it. The pituitary gland is often called the master gland because it controls a number of other hormone glands, including:

  • thyroid
  • adrenal glands
  • bullocks
  • ovaries


The hypothalamus acts as a communication center for your pituitary gland, sending signals and messages to the pituitary gland to produce and release hormones that trigger the production and release of other hormones.

Your hypothalamus affects a number of functions in your body, including:

(Video) Pineal Gland - Definition, Location & Function - Human Anatomy | Kenhub

  • temperature setting
  • food intake
  • sleep and wakefulness
  • thirst
  • memory
  • emotional behavior


Your pineal gland is located deep in the center of your brain. Its function is not fully understood, but we know that it secretes and regulates certain hormones, includingmelatonin. Melatonin helps regulate your sleep patterns, which are also known as circadian rhythms.

The pineal gland also plays a role in regulating female hormones, which affect themenstrual cycleand fertility.

Adrenal glands

Your adrenal glands are located on top of each kidney. They produce various hormones, some of which include:

  • cortisol
  • aldosterone
  • adrenaline
  • a small amount of sex hormones called androgens

The hormones produced by your adrenal glands have many important functions. They help your body:

  • blood sugar control
  • they burn fat and proteins
  • regulate blood pressure
  • react to stressors


The pancreas—a long, flat organ located in your abdomen—consists of two types of glands: exocrine and endocrine. The pancreas is surrounded bythe small intestine,stomach,liver,Gallbladder, andspleen.

The pancreas plays an important role in turning the food you eat into fuel for your body's cells. This makes it a digestive agentenzymeswhich are released into the small intestine to break down and digest food. It also produces hormones that control your bloodglucoseflat.

Sweat glands

Your skin is covered with sweat glands of which there are two types: eccrine and apocrine. Your eccrine glands open directly into your skin and regulate your body temperature by releasing water to the surface of your skin when your body temperature rises.

Apocrine glands open into the hair follicle and are found in hair-bearing areas such as the skin, armpits, and groin. These glands secrete a milky fluid, usually in response to stress. Your body also contains modified apocrine glands:

  • on the eyelids
  • on the areola and nipples
  • on the nose
  • in the ears

Sebaceous glands

Sebaceous glands are found all over your skin, although there are a few on your hands and feet and none on your palms and soles. They secrete an oily substance called sebum that lubricates your skin.

Most of these glands are released into a hair follicle, although some open directly to the surface of the skin, such as the Meibomian glands on the eyelids, the Fordyce spots on the genitalia and upper lip, and the Tyson glands on the foreskin.

These glands perform a few functions in your body, including:

  • regulating your body temperature by working with your sweat glands
  • helping your skin retain moisture
  • helping to fight infections caused by bacteria and fungi

Salivary glands

Your salivary glands are located in your mouth. You have hundreds of small glands located all over you:

  • language
  • palate
  • lips
  • cheeks

You have three pairs of important salivary glands, including:

(Video) Endocrine System, Part 1 - Glands & Hormones: Crash Course Anatomy & Physiology #23

  • parotid glands, located in front of and just below your ears
  • sublingual glands, located just under your tongue
  • submandibular glands, located under your jaw

Salivary glands produce saliva and empty it into your mouth through ducts. Saliva serves a few important purposes, including moistening your food to help you chew, swallow, and digest it. Saliva also contains antibodies that kill germs to keep your mouth healthy.

Mammary glands

The mammary glands, which are a type of sweat gland, are responsible for producing breast milk. Males also have glandular tissue in the breasts, but estrogen is produced duringpubertytriggers the growth of this tissue in women.

Hormonal changes duringpregnancythey signal the ducts to produce milk to prepare the baby.

There are a number of different problems that can affect the glands. Depending on which glands are affected, a person may experience symptoms that affect different parts of the body.

Thyroid disorders

Hypothyroidism and hyperthyroidism arecommon thyroid disorders. Hypothyroidism occurs due to an underactive thyroid that does not produce enough thyroid hormones. Hyperthyroidism is the result of an overactive thyroid that produces too much thyroid hormone. Both conditions can cause an enlarged thyroid gland or goiter.

Hypothyroidism can also causeunintentional weight gain, fatigue and a slow heart rate, while hyperthyroidism does the opposite, causing unintentional weight loss, nervousness and a fast heart rate. Both conditions can usually be treated with medication to restore proper thyroid function.


A healthy pancreas releasesinsulinwhen blood sugar is too high. Insulin causes your cells to convert sugar to be used as energy or stored as fat. InDiabetes, your pancreas either doesn't produce insulin or doesn't use it properly, leading to high blood sugar levels.

Diabetes can lead to a number of serious complications, including nerve damage,heart disease, andStroke. There are two different types of diabetes. Common symptoms include increased thirst, weight changes, and frequent or recurring infections.

Treatment depends on the type of diabetes, but may include medication, insulin and lifestyle changes.

(Video) Overview of the Endocrine System

Adrenal gland disorders

Adrenal gland disorders are caused by too much or too little of a certain hormone, such as cortisol.Cushing's syndrome, an adrenal gland disorder caused byhigh cortisol, causes weight gain, shoulder fat and high blood pressure. It is often caused by prolonged usecorticosteroids.

Adrenal insufficiency, which occurs when your body produces too little cortisol, and sometimes aldosterone, can cause decreased appetite, weight loss andmuscular weakness. Adrenal gland disorders can be treated using medication, surgery, and other treatments, or by stopping corticosteroids.

Disorders of the salivary glands

The formation of stones or tumors, infections and certain medical conditions, such asautoimmune disordersandHIV and AIDS, can prevent the salivary glands from working properly. When your salivary glands don't produce enough saliva, it can affect chewing, swallowing and taste. It can also increase the risk of oral infections, such ascavities.

Symptoms often include pain or swelling in your face, throat or under your tongue and dry mouth. Treatment ofdisorders of the salivary glandsdepends on the cause and may include medication or surgery.

Problems with your glands can cause vague symptoms. See your doctor if you notice any unusual swelling or changes in your appearance, such as unexplained weight changes. Also see your doctor if you develop changes in your heart rate orpalpitations.

Fatigue, weakness and changes in your appetite lasting more than two weeks should also prompt a visit to the doctor.

The bottom line

(Video) Endocrine System

Your glands play a role in almost every bodily function. Endocrine glands secrete hormones into your bloodstream. Exocrine glands secrete other substances to the outside of your body.

A problem with one of your glands must be treated to avoid serious complications. See your doctor if you suspect you have a gland disorder.


What are glands? Anatomy and Function? ›

The endocrine system is made up of organs called glands. Glands produce and release different hormones that target specific things in the body. You have glands all over your body, including in your neck, brain and reproductive organs. Some glands are tiny, about the size of a grain of rice or a pea.

What are glands in anatomy? ›

(gland) An organ that makes one or more substances, such as hormones, digestive juices, sweat, tears, saliva, or milk. Endocrine glands release the substances directly into the bloodstream. Exocrine glands release the substances into a duct or opening to the inside or outside of the body.

What are glands anatomy and physiology? ›

A gland is a functional unit of cells that works together to create and release a product into a duct or directly to the bloodstream. Two principal types of glands exist: exocrine and endocrine.

Where are glands in the body? ›

Clusters of lymph glands are found in the neck, axilla (underarm), chest, abdomen, and groin. For example, there are about 20-40 lymph glands in the axilla. Also called lymph node. Anatomy of the lymph system, showing the lymph vessels and lymph organs including lymph nodes, tonsils, thymus, spleen, and bone marrow.

What are the glands and how do they work? ›

A gland is an organ which produces and releases substances that perform a specific function in the body. There are two types of gland. Endocrine glands are ductless glands and release the substances that they make (hormones) directly into the bloodstream.

What is a gland quizlet? ›

Gland. an organ of the body that secretes one or more hormones.

What are glands examples? ›

A gland that makes substances such as sweat, tears, saliva, milk, and digestive juices, and releases them through a duct or opening to a body surface. Examples of exocrine glands include sweat glands, lacrimal glands, salivary glands, mammary glands, and digestive glands in the stomach, pancreas, and intestines.

What are five glands and their functions? ›

(a) The five endocrine glands found in the human body are:
  • Pituitary gland which secretes growth hormone.
  • Thyroid gland which secretes thyroxine hormone.
  • Parathyroid gland which secretes parathormone.
  • Pancreas which secretes insulin.
  • Adrenal glands secrete adrenaline.

How are glands different from organs? ›

What is the difference between Gland and Organ? Gland is a specialized cell or group of cells synthesize and excrete substances. However, organ is a group of organized tissues performing specific or group of functions. Gland always secretes substances but not all the organs secrete substances.

What are the 4 glands in the human body? ›

The thyroid and parathyroid glands are in your neck. The thymus is between your lungs, the adrenals are on top of your kidneys, and the pancreas is behind your stomach.

What is the most important gland in the human body? ›

The pituitary gland is sometimes called the "master" gland of the endocrine system because it controls the functions of many of the other endocrine glands. The pituitary gland is no larger than a pea, and is located at the base of the brain.

How many glands are in the body? ›

The endocrine system is made up of seven different glands that make chemicals called hormones. Hormones are substances that act as "messengers" to control many body functions. The endocrine system makes hormones that help control: Growth.

How are glands classified? ›

They can be categorized according to the shape of their secretory unit. Secretory units shaped as a tube are referred to as tubular, whereas spherical units are referred to as alveolar or acinar, when the pancreas is involved. Exocrine glands can also be comprised of both tubular and alveolar secretory units and.

What is a gland for dummies? ›

In humans and other animals, glands are tissues or organs that produce substances that are necessary for the functioning of other tissues or organs. They remove specific substances from the blood, change or concentrate them, and then either release them for further use or eliminate them.

What are important facts about glands? ›

There are two types of glands in the body: exocrine and endocrine. Exocrine glands — which include the salivary glands, sweat glands and mammary glands — excrete their products through ducts. Endocrine glands, by contrast, release their products (hormones) without ducts, directly into the bloodstream.

What are the 5 glands in the human body? ›

The following are integral parts of the endocrine system:
  • Hypothalamus. The hypothalamus is located at the base of the brain, near the optic chiasm where the optic nerves behind each eye cross and meet. ...
  • Pineal body. ...
  • Pituitary. ...
  • Thyroid and parathyroid. ...
  • Thymus. ...
  • Adrenal gland. ...
  • Pancreas. ...
  • Ovary.

What is the true meaning of gland? ›

(ɡlænd ) noun. 1. a cell or organ in humans and other animals that synthesizes chemical substances and secretes them for the body to use or eliminate, either through a duct (exocrine gland) or directly into the bloodstream (endocrine gland)

What is gland also called? ›

Endocrine glands are also called glands.

What is gland in hormones? ›

Hormones are like the body's communication system. They take messages from one part of the body (the gland) to tell another part of the body (the target cell) to do something important. The endocrine glands influence reproduction, metabolism, growth and many other functions.

What are the 7 major glands in the body? ›

While many parts of the body make hormones, the major glands that make up the endocrine system are the:
  • hypothalamus.
  • pituitary.
  • thyroid.
  • parathyroids.
  • adrenals.
  • pineal body.
  • the ovaries.
  • the testes.

What are the two main types of glands and their functions? ›

Endocrine glands secrete hormones to your bloodstream. Exocrine glands secrete other substances to your body's exterior.

How does glands affect the body? ›

These glands, located all over your body, create and secrete (release) hormones. Hormones are chemicals that coordinate different functions in your body by carrying messages through your blood to your organs, skin, muscles and other tissues. These signals tell your body what to do and when to do it.

Are your glands the same as your lymph nodes? ›

Lymph nodes, also known as lymph glands or just 'glands', are part of the lymphatic system, which fights infection. Lymph nodes filter impurities from the lymph, which is a type of body fluid.

Is a gland the same as a node? ›

Lymph glands (also called lymph nodes) are pea-sized lumps of tissue that contain white blood cells. These help to fight bacteria, viruses and anything else that causes infection. They're an important part of the immune system and are found throughout the body.

Is A kidney A gland? ›

The kidney is traditionally regarded as an exocrine gland, producing urine to regulate body fluid volumes and composition and to excrete nitrogenous wastes.

Which gland is present in front of neck? ›

The thyroid gland, along with the esophagus, pharynx, and trachea, is found within the visceral compartment of the neck which is bound by pretracheal fascia.

What is the function of the adrenal gland? ›

A small gland that makes steroid hormones, adrenaline, and noradrenaline. These hormones help control heart rate, blood pressure, and other important body functions. There are two adrenal glands, one on top of each kidney.

What is the master gland of the body? ›

The pituitary gland is sometimes called the master gland of the endocrine system. This is because it controls the functions of many of the other endocrine glands.

Where is the largest gland in the body? ›

Liver is the largest gland in human body. It is located in the upper-right portion of the abdominal cavity.

Which gland is essential for life? ›

Adrenals: The adrenal glands (each of which weighs about 4 grams and is about the size of your thumb) are situated just above the kidneys and consist of two parts, the adrenal medulla and the adrenal cortex. These glands produce hormones which are essential for life and help us cope with stress.

How many glands does a woman have? ›

The ovaries

A woman has 2 ovaries. The ovaries are found on each side of the uterus, just below the opening of the fallopian tubes. These are the tubes that extend from the uterus to near the ovaries. The ovaries contain the egg cells needed for reproduction.

Which is the smallest gland in human body? ›

The smallest gland found in the body of a human being is the pineal gland. It is situated at the dorsal side of the forebrain and originates from the embryo's ectoderm. The weight of a pineal gland is 150 milligrams. The prime role of the pineal gland is to balance the rhythm of the body and secrete melatonin hormone.

Which is the second largest gland in the human body? ›

Pancreas is the second largest gland in human body. It is also called a mixed gland or Heterocrine gland as it has Exocrine parts called Acini, which secretes Pancreatic juice and Endocrine parts called Islets of Langerhans, which secrete hormones like Insulin, Glucagon and Somatostatin.

Is The skin A gland? ›

The human skin has several types of exocrine glands (Latin, glandulae cutis), which release their biochemical products onto the skin surface. All skin glands consist by a secretory compartment, the gland or coil (tubulus), and an excretory part, the duct (ductus).

Which gland is located at the base of the brain? ›

A pea-sized organ attached to the part of the brain called the hypothalamus. It lies at the base of the brain above the back of the nose.

What is the thyroid gland? ›

The thyroid gland is a vital hormone gland: It plays a major role in the metabolism, growth and development of the human body. It helps to regulate many body functions by constantly releasing a steady amount of thyroid hormones into the bloodstream.

What are the 4 glands? ›

The glands that make up the endocrine system produce chemical messengers called hormones that travel through the blood to other parts of the body. Important endocrine glands include the pituitary, thyroid, parathyroid, thymus, and adrenal glands.

What are the 4 types of glands? ›

Associated Glands: There are four types of exocrine glands within human skin—sudoriferous, sebaceous, ceruminous, and mammary glands.

What are the 6 glands in the body? ›

The endocrine system includes the hypothalamus, pineal gland, pituitary gland, thyroid gland, parathyroid glands, thymus, adrenal glands, and pancreas.

How many glands does a human have? ›

There are, at the very least, 43 glands located within the human body. In general, these glands can be categorized into two groups, endocrine glands, and exocrine glands. Some examples of endocrine glands are the pineal gland, testes, and ovary.

What is the difference between a gland and an organ? ›

What is the difference between Gland and Organ? Gland is a specialized cell or group of cells synthesize and excrete substances. However, organ is a group of organized tissues performing specific or group of functions. Gland always secretes substances but not all the organs secrete substances.

How many glands are in your neck? ›

There approximately 600 lymph nodes in the body, and 200 of this are located in the neck. A neck dissection is useful not only to remove the cancer, but also so that the nodes can be examined by a pathologist.

What are the 3 glands? ›

The accessory glands of the male reproductive system are the seminal vesicles, prostate gland, and the bulbourethral glands.

Which is the largest gland in human body? ›

The liver is the largest gland in the human body. It is also the largest (internal)organ in our body and can weigh up to 1.5 kg for a human adult. That is, about 1/50th of the body weight is because of the liver.

What are the 2 types of glands in human body? ›

Though you have many glands throughout your body, they fall into two types: endocrine and exocrine.

What is the master gland? ›

The pituitary gland is sometimes called the "master" gland of the endocrine system because it controls the functions of many of the other endocrine glands.

Which is not a gland? ›

Final answer: The tongue is not a gland.

What are the 4 tiny glands that function? ›

Four tiny parathyroid glands are located around the thyroid in the throat. 'Para' means 'near', which explains the name. These glands are part of the endocrine system, which consists of a range of glands that secrete hormones into the bloodstream.


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