Inflammation of sweat glands: What helps with clogged glands in the armpit?

Inflammation of sweat glands: What helps with clogged glands in the armpit?

Inflammation of the sweat glands is widespread in the armpits. In the worst case, it can develop into a painful abscess. But what are the causes of sweat gland inflammation, what are the typical symptoms and what can be done to counteract the inflammation?

Sweat glands: occurrence and function

Everyone has two to four million sweat glands. These are distributed all over the body. There are many sweat glands on the forehead, the elbow crook, and the hands’ and feet’ soles.

A distinction is made between merocrine and apocrine sweat glands:

  • Merocrine glands are located at the interface between the hypodermis and the skin and are independent of hair follicles.
  • Apocrine sweat glands are found under the armpits and in the intimate area. They are located in the subcutaneous tissue of the hair follicle.

As the name suggests, sweat glands secrete sweat, cooling the body. Sweating plays a vital role in regulating body temperature.


Possible causes of sweat gland inflammation

The closure of a hair follicle usually triggers inflammation of the sweat glands. This can be attributed, for example, to a keratinization disorder in the sebaceous glands on the hair follicle.

The sebum glands should keep the skin supple and protect it from drying out by secreting it. If the sebaceous glands are clogged, more and more horny material accumulates at the hair roots and the sebaceous glands. As a result, sweat and sebum can no longer drain properly. The result is inflammation.

Since the sebaceous glands on the hair follicles play an essential role in the development of the disease, only the apocrine and not the merocrine sweat glands are affected by sweat gland inflammation.

Causes of blocked sweat glands

Inflammation of the sweat glands can be triggered or promoted by the following factors:

  • Obesity: Increased sweating and skin layers lying on top of each other can promote the development of inflammation.
  • Mechanical stimuli: Permanent irritation of the skin cells, for example, through tight clothing, can trigger inflammation.
  • Hereditary predisposition: Since inflammation of the sweat glands sometimes runs in families, a predisposition as one of the triggers is not unlikely.
  • Hormonal causes: Male sex hormones promote sebum production and can, therefore, also promote a blockage of the glands.
  • Bacterial infections: Colonizing hair follicles with bacteria (especially Staphylococcus aureus) can worsen the inflammation.
  • Smoking: Cigarette consumption promotes the development of inflammatory processes in the body.
  • Diabetes mellitus, since the skin’s defence mechanisms are then weakened.

Other risk factors for sweat gland inflammation can be, for example, stress and malnutrition, as these weaken the immune system. If the immune system is weakened, this can promote the formation of sweat gland inflammation.


Symptoms of sweat gland inflammation

If sebum and sweat can no longer drain from the glands, abscesses ( acne and inversa ) and inflammation of the sebum and sweat glands in this area occur. The abscesses are painful, pus-filled inflammatory nodules (“pus bumps”). These are particularly common in the armpits, at the back of the head, in the genital and anal areas and on the back.

If there are larger skin abscesses, they can cause such severe pain that movement is restricted.

In addition, the lymph nodes are often swollen in response to the inflammation in the affected areas.

Treatment of sweat gland inflammation

For mild symptoms, anti-inflammatory ointments or ointments containing antibiotics can be sufficient to treat sweat gland inflammation. A traction ointment can also prove effective for mild blockages of the sweat glands. In the case of severe and long-lasting inflammation, antibiotics are usually prescribed.

The affected areas can also be treated surgically if the inflammation is far advanced. The doctor removes the abscess and rinses the area with an antibiotic to do this. The advantage of surgical removal is that these areas usually heal completely. However, this method does not have a preventive effect so that new inflammations can develop.

To prevent new inflammation of the sweat glands from developing, reducing risk factors such as weight reduction, avoiding skin irritation from friction or not smoking can help prevent sweat gland inflammation from reoccurring in the ideal case.

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