Infected Sweat Gland

An infected sweat gland can resemble small pimple-like bumps on various parts of your body like the groin area or in your armpits. These symptoms can be caused due to a blocked hair follicle or an infection of your sweat glands.

What is sweat gland?

First, to understand more about what you may have found, you should know the definition of a sweat gland. The medical definition of a sweat gland is “small tubular structures situated within and under the skin (in the subcutaneous tissue). They discharge sweat by tiny openings in the surface of the skin.” In other words, it is the small openings on your skin that allow you to sweat either when it’s hot outside, or you engage in physically challenging activities, or when you find you are angry and emotional. Sweating is a normal bodily function that also helps to keep the body healthy by cooling it down when the temperature rises. It also helps to rid the body of toxins that could cause disease.

What is an infected sweat gland?

An infected sweat gland or Hidradenitis often happens when you have a blocked hair follicle in the armpits, groin, buttons, or under the breasts. They can also be caused by a disease known as Hidradenitis Suppurativa (HS). HS is a chronic disease of the apocrine glands which are found in the armpits and groin areas and is also known as acne inversa.

Even though you may have an infected or inflamed sweat gland, it does not mean that you have HS. If you have any concerns, it is best to contact your medical physician for a consultation to rule out HS.

Types of sweat glands

In human beings, there are actually two different types of sweat glands, Eccrine sweat glands, and Apocrine sweat glands. To better understand your sweat glands, let’s focus on their definitions.

Eccrine sweat glands--these glands are located all over our skin.

Apocrine sweat glands--these are located in the scalp, armpits and groin areas.

Both types of glands produce sweat, but different types. The eccrine glands make the sweat that cools you down when you’re hot, what everyone is used to. But the sweat from apocrine glands differs because it is a fattier and thicker substance that comes out during high-stress levels, arguments, nervousness, or intense physical workouts. Sweat from the apocrine glands is the sweat that is the cause of body odor. It is thought that apocrine sweat has pheromones, hormones often considered to be in conjunction with mood and even fertility.

Aside from the type of sweat that eccrine and apocrine produce being different, their location plays an important part in infected sweat glands also. Eccrine sweat comes out of the top layer of skin whereas apocrine glands release their sweat at the root of hair follicles. This is the reason why apocrine sweat is associated with infected sweat glands instead of eccrine sweat.

By understanding the differences between eccrine sweat glands and apocrine sweat glands and following specific instructions from your physician, the breakout of infected sweat glands can be lessened. But keep in mind there is not a medical cure for the condition.

Can anyone get an infected sweat gland?

While it is possible for any individual to get an infected sweat gland, it is more common for some than for others. Individuals more susceptible to infected sweat glands include:

  • Women--it affects four times more women than men
  • African Americans
  • Smokers
  • Obese or overweight individuals
  • Hormones can possibly affect someone also

Infected sweat glands are often found in persons that also have Crohn's disease, irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), thyroid complications, autoimmune disorders, the herpes simplex virus (HSV), and some that are affected by Down syndrome. The reasons behind it are unknown as of right now.

What are the symptoms to watch for?

Oftentimes, the first symptoms may only result in a single, infected sweat gland, but other symptoms to look out for that may signify something more serious are:

  • Excessive sweating
  • Tender, red bumps in groin or armpits
  • Swellings enlarging over a short period of time
  • Drainage from the area
  • The area heals but could recur as it is a chronic condition
  • Severe itching
  • Pain in the area

How can an infected sweat gland be avoided?

There is no cure for HS or an infected sweat gland, but individuals can take steps to lessen their occurrence.

Avoid tight clothing--it chafes against the skin, allowing for friction, which can also allow for an infected sweat gland.

Weight Loss--maintaining a healthy weight is always a good idea, you can check with your doctor to see what he or she may recommend for your weight loss regimen.

Avoid heat exposure--during the hotter months of the year, avoid overexposure to heat by wearing lightweight, loose-fitting clothing. Cotton is an idea to consider for clothing.

Avoid antiperspirant deodorant--antiperspirant deodorant can be solid or spray, but it can clog the pores and that can cause either ingrown hairs or infected sweat glands. Do some research to see what alternatives are available for your needs.

Doctor’s suggest using antibacterial lotion for odor control--again, doing research can help in choosing the product that is right for you.

When bathing, use antibacterial soap also--antibacterial soaps are easy to find and can help with body odor and bacteria that could be lurking in an infected sweat gland.

Never use dull razors to shave with--not only do dull razors not work the way that a new, sharp one can, but they can also cause ingrown hairs and infected sweat glands. Always use a new razor when it's time to shave and remember to try leaving a little bit of stubble to decrease the possibility of a hair or sweat gland becoming infected.

What type of treatments can be used?

As mentioned before there is no medical cure for it, but there are topical treatments and other medication that can be considered for temporary treatment.

Topical antibiotics--such as a triple antibiotic ointment.

Oral antibiotics in some conditions--your doctor will prescribe the proper medicine to use.

Hypnotherapy--refer to what your physician recommends for hypnotism, provided they recommend it.

Homeopathy--the use of certain essential oils can help with many ailments including ingrown hairs and infected sweat glands. By researching essential oils you can find which ones are used for your specific ailment.

Chinese medicine

Laser hair removal--this is the same thing as electrolysis; hair removal treatment centers perform this.

Surgical removal--physicians can remove the sweat gland that is causing the problem, in some severe cases, many sweat glands can be removed surgically.

Having the cyst drained--this procedure usually involves a scalpel penetrating the cyst and draining it of the infection.

Always consult with your physician with regard to the type of treatment that will be best for your individual needs.

Side effects of treatments

Side effects can differ depending on the person and their lifestyle. It’s best to refer to the packaging information on the product you are using and follow its directions. While many people can take antibiotics orally, all antibiotics have their own side effects. The easiest way to discover any possible side effects is to speak to your doctor and ask about any of the effects that could occur.