Armpits are an example of a very necessary structure of the human body that often gets a bad rap. This may be due to their distinct smell or perhaps because New Jersey is called the armpit of America. Regardless of the reason, it is important to note that, without the functions of the armpit glands, the body could not work as efficiently. These structures are small and tubular in design and produce sweat that the body utilizes as a cooling mechanism.
The regulation of body temperature is an extremely important feature of physiological homeostasis. Many of the organs and structures of the body rely on a specific environment, and if this environment varies even slightly, there can be serious implications. The standard body temperature in a human being is 98.6 degrees Fahrenheit (37 degrees Celsius), and even a three- or four-degree increase or decrease can pose a threat to a person's life. It is easy to see how important regulatory mechanisms are.
One such mechanism that the body uses to help maintain a desired temperature is the armpit glands along with other glands located throughout the body. The body may increase in temperature for many reasons, including increased metabolic rate or disease. Sometimes, the body releases sweat to help cool its internal temperature. The sweat then comes in contact with a breeze, which causes the cooling sensation most are familiar with. The degree to which a person sweats is typically reflective of how overheated he or she is at the time.
The two subtypes of sweat glands are apocrine glands and eccrine glands. The smaller of the two, eccrine glands are located abundantly throughout the body; however, they are more dense in certain areas. Apocrine glands are only located in the axilla and perianal regions. These glands, which include armpit glands, are larger than their related eccrine glands.
Armpit glands usually secrete their viscous by-product through the proximal hair follicles. This process usually begins around puberty and can be associated with a pungent odor. The reason for this odor is usually not the sweat itself coming from the armpit glands but rather bacteria. The warm, dark, and moist environment created by the secretion of sweat into the armpits creates an ideal environment for bacteria to reproduce.
One common treatment for this undesirable smell is antiperspirant or deodorant. Antiperspirant targets the sweating, hoping to minimize armpit gland secretions, whereas deodorant focuses more on masking the smell. Sometimes, a product may contain both antiperspirant and deodorant, fighting the negative implications of sweating from all angles.