Different Types of Glands in the Human Body & their Functions

Glands are the secretory organs located at specific sites in the body. They contain secretory tissue and secrete hormones, enzymes, and other secretions that are vital for the regulation of body physiology.

There are two types of glands as

Exocrine glands

  • Salivary glands
  • Mucous glands
  • Lachrymal glands
  • Pancreatic gland
  • Ceruminous glands (sweat glands and mammary glands).

Endocrine glands

  • Pituitary gland
  • Thyroid gland
  • Parathyroid gland
  • Adrenal gland
  • Pineal gland
  • Thymus gland

Exocrine glands secrete enzymes that act as biocatalysts to speed up the biochemical reactions.

Meanwhile, the endocrine glands secrete hormones that act as chemical messengers and are involved in the body’s homeostasis.

Scientifically, these glands can be differentiated based on their structures, location, and secretions.

Exocrine glands

types of glands
Exocrine secretion is sent out of the gland through a duct. However, the secretion of the endocrine glands is collected by the blood flowing through.
  • These glands secrete their contents into a particular region of the body.
  • The secretion located in the core of the gland is carried through a duct and released at the site of action.

This secretion mostly has enzymes and other substances.

Examples of exocrine glands include

Salivary glands

  • These are the glands located in the walls of the mouth. They secrete saliva and have the enzyme salivary amylase.
  • This amylase helps digest carbohydrates in the mouth.
  • Saliva also consists of lysosomal enzymes.
For more details, check out the article on the functions of saliva.

Mucous glands

  • Mucous is a protective layer in the gastrointestinal tract. It helps to absorb the wear and tear during the digestion of food.
  • Numerous mucous glands are present in the mucosa layer throughout the digestive tract. These glands secrete mucus.


The pancreas is a gland located near the digestive tract.

  • Its exocrine portion secretes enzymes with pancreatic juice into the duodenum of the small intestine.

This pancreatic juice consists of digestive enzymes like pancreatic amylase, trypsin, and lipase. These enzymes digest carbohydrates, proteins, and fats, respectively.

Lachrymal glands

These are the glands present near the eye.

They secrete tears that have the lysosomal enzyme, salts, immunoglobulins, and water.

The lysosome enzyme helps to destroy microbes entering the eye.

Ceruminous glands

  • These are modified sweat glands present in the outer ear.
  • They secrete a sticky material called cerumen, which is sticky (ear wax).
  • This ear wax contains lysosomal enzymes and immunoglobulins.

This helps to prevent the entry of insects and microbes into the ear.

Mammary glands

  • Mammary glands are modified sweat glands present in the female reproductive system.
  • These glands produce milk to nourish the newborn baby.

Types of Exocrine Glands

Exocrine glands can be divided into

  1. Simple and
  2. Compound glands

Simple exocrine glands

These glands have a simplified structure without any branches in their anatomy.

Mucous-secreting glands of the large intestine are an example.

Compound exocrine glands

compound exocrine glands
Salivary glands with branches are compound exocrine glands

As seen in the image above, these glands have numerous branches in their anatomical structure.

All these branches collect the secretion and pour it out into the main branch. Examples of this type of gland include salivary glands.

Endocrine glands

These glands, unlike exocrine glands, do not have ducts to release their secretion.

Instead, the blood flowing through the glandular tissue carries away the secretion.

These secretions are called hormones and are meant to act at a quite distant part away from their origin source.

The entire set of endocrine glands is categorized separately as the endocrine system under 12 body systems.

Major Endocrine glands include


This is a neuroendocrine gland, but some do not consider it a gland.

Its secretion is meant to regulate the function of the pituitary gland, as listed in the table below.

Sl. NoHormoneRole
1Growth hormone-releasing hormoneGrowth hormone-releasing
hormone release inhibitory
Restricts the release of growth hormone.
Stimulates release of gonadotrophic hormones.
4Prolactin release inhibitory
Stimulates release of the thyrotrophic hormone.

Pituitary Gland (below the hypothalamus)

Pituitary gland

This is a gland located below the hypothalamus in the brain.

For more about its anatomy, refer to the pituitary structure.

The gland is differentiated into anterior and posterior glands and has definite secretions for each type, i.e.,

i) Anterior pituitary gland

Located in the front part of the pituitary

  • Prolactin: Stimulates milk production in mothers.
  • Somatotropin: A hormone that regulates the growth of the body and tissues.
  • Luteinizing hormone: Stimulates ovulation (egg formation) in females and testosterone production in males.
  • Thyroid-stimulating hormone: Stimulates the thyroid gland to produce T3 & T4 hormones.
  • Adrenocorticotrophic hormone: Stimulates secretion of glucocorticoids and mineralocorticoid hormones.
  • Follicle-stimulating hormone signals the formation of estrogen and progesterone by the female reproductive system.

ii. Posterior pituitary

It is present behind the front part of the pituitary, as shown in the diagram above.

  • Vasopressin (antidiuretic hormone) controls water loss in the kidneys. So, it minimizes urine formation and saves water in the body.
  • Oxytocin signals the uterus for delivery in pregnant women after the period of gestation. It also stimulates milk secretion in mothers.

Thyroid gland

Image by Adam-endocrinesurgery.ucla.edu)

This endocrine gland is situated in the throat region, as shown in the picture. It has a butterfly-like appearance.

It specifically produces two thyroid hormones named Tri-iodothyronine (T3) and thyroxine (T4).

Parathyroid glands

These glands are present near the thyroid gland. They produce the hormone parathormone. This parathormone is involved in calcium regulation.

Both thyroid and parathyroid glands are examples of types of glands in the neck.

Pancreatic islets

The pancreas has both exocrine and endocrine functions. Its endocrine portion has islets of Langerhans cells. These islets secrete hormones that regulate the body’s glucose metabolism.

The hormone insulin released enhances glucose uptake in the tissues and glycogen formation in the liver.

At the same time, glucagon enhances the release of glucose from the liver into the blood.

The hormone somatostatin inhibits the secretion of both insulin and glucagon hormones.

Adrenal glands

Adrenal glands ( One of the types of glands
Adrenal cortex and medulla (image by estrellamountain.edu)

A pair of glands are located on the top of each kidney.

As shown in the image above, it basically has two regions.

  • Adrenal cortex
  • Adrenal medulla

The adrenal cortex portion secretes glucocorticoids and mineralocorticoids.

The adrenal medulla portion secretes nor-adrenalin. This is one of the neurotransmitters and is called a flight or fight hormone.

Pineal gland

This is another gland located inside the brain. It secretes the hormone melatonin, a sleep hormone. It regulates sleep patterns and hence is called a natural body clock.

One can see jet lag effects due to its secretions.

You may also read-> Hormones in the human body.

Thymus gland

This gland secretes the hormone thymosin, which is in the development of cell-mediated immunity.

Sex glands


The testes secrete this. It is produced in males to a large extent and to a minimum extent in women. It signals male characters like the beard, heavy muscles, hoarse voice, etc.


Produce Estrogen, progesterone. Secreted only in women and regulates the reproduction cycle.

All the glands are located in distinct locations in the human body. They regulate physiology to a large extent upon receiving the stimuli from the brain to do so.

Without their secretions, enzyme and hormone deficiency diseases can arise.

Besides the glands, individual cells also have the ability to secrete.

For example, sperms produce the Hyaluronidase enzyme. By this, sperm can swim in the uterine tissue to reach the ova.

Frequently asked questions and answers.

1. What gland has both endocrine and exocrine functions

The pancreas is the gland that has both functions.
The endocrine portion secretes hormones like glucagon and insulin hormones.
Through the exocrine portion, it secretes digestive enzymes like pancreatic lipase, trypsin, chymotrypsin, lipase, and nucleases.

2. How to remember endocrine glands and hormones

Endocrine glands and their hormones can be remembered from their location, shape, and role in physiology.


Leave a comment

  1. extremely helpful following a pituitary apoplexy which occurs in six people in 100,000 of the population. the info helps me with writing a book on the apoplexy
    which left me in a dark place for four weeks before I recovered. it was as though someone had taken an eraser a rubbed out four weeks of my life.

    • @ Joseph Majur Wieu! Exocrine glands have a duct which carry the secretion to the desired place of action.Like pancreas secretes it digestive enzymes into intestine for digestion and nowhere else. While the endocrine part of it secretes hormones like insulin within itself which is carried away by blood to reach each and every part of the body for its action.

  2. What type of glands are in the roof of our mouths?
    This is a quiz question but I cannot find the answer

  3. Thanks for so much information about glands,i am also a patient of thyroid gland and i am following the medical advise of the physician. It takes a lot of time with healing.
    I need some advise for quick healing.

    • @Ruben! Thyroid problem will be long standing if it immune related disorder. For better healing, it is good to have stress free life, physical activity and also good nutrition besides medication.

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  5. this is such a meaningful and useful information which guide us to our assignment,test even an exam…..thank’s for it!!!

  6. Thank you so much for giving us the information about the glands in our body. It is such nice & helpful information. Hope that you will also give more information to us…

  7. Excellent description of the endocrine glands and their functions. It really is helping me to learn they’re basic functions. Thanks for posting and helping to spread the knowledge that can help people learn how to heal themselves.

  8. Too good very useful for me. It helps me to complete my project on time.
    LOVE IT!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  9. well, its good information but i want to know when they form in human body and when they start functioning

  10. very useful,and good information. quite happy with the results ,would recommend others to make use of it.


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