15 Types of Glands in Human Body & their Functions

Glands are the secretory organs in the body. They are sac-like structures consisting of secretory tissue and are important for the regulation of anatomy and physiology.

There are two main types of glands as the

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

These glands play a vital role in the physiology and homeostasis of the body. Hence, they are situated in safe and prominent locations of the body.

They can also be differentiated based on their structure, location, and secretions too.

These glands essentially secrete enzymes, hormones, and other essential fluids.

Different Types of Glands in the human body

Exocrine glands

types of glands
Exocrine secretion is sent out of the gland while the secretion of the endocrine glands is collected by the blood capillary.

These glands secrete their contents into a particular region of the body. The secretion from the core of the gland is carried through a duct and released at the site of action.

This secretion mostly contains enzymes and other substances. Examples of exocrine glands include

Salivary glands

These are the glance located in the mouth. They secrete saliva, which consists of the enzyme salivary amylase. This salivary amylase helps in the digestion of carbohydrates in the mouth. This also consists of lysosomal enzymes. Check the functions of saliva for more details.

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 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 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 are glands that do not have any branches in their anatomy. These types of glands include mucous secreting glands in the large intestine.

Compound exocrine glands

compound exocrine glands
Salivary glands with branches are compound exocrine glands

These glands have numerous branches in their internal anatomy. All these branches collect the secretion to pour out into the main branch. Examples of this type of gland include salivary glands.

Endocrine glands

These glands do not release their secretion outside of their body. But the blood flowing through them carries away the secretion.

These secretions then act at a quite distant part of the body from their source. They are ductless glands and their secretions are called hormones.

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

Major Endocrine glands include

Pituitary Gland (of 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 as 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 Present behind the front part of the pituitary as shown in the diagram above.

  • Vasopressin (antidiuretic hormone) controls water loss in kidneys. So 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. While 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 is located each on the top of a kidney. As shown in the image above, it basically is a dual gland.

a) Adrenal cortex b) 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


This is secreted by the testes. 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 regulate the reproduction cycle.

Reference: Principles of Anatomy and Physiology by Gerard J. Tortora

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

So we can notice that those glands in the brain secrete hormones that go outside the brain and act on other glands distributed in different body parts. They travel through the blood to the target organs after being released.

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

Besides the glands, individual cells also have the ability to secrete. For example, sperms produce the Hyaluronidase enzyme. By this, they can swim in the uterine tissue to reach the ova. The other application of this enzyme is to help the drug reach the innermost tissues of the body.

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. 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.

  3. Wonderful website you have here but I was curious if you knew of any
    community forums that cover the same topics talked about here?

    I’d really like to be a part of online community where I can get
    opinions from other experienced people that share the
    same interest. If you have any suggestions, please let me know.

  4. 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…

  5. 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.


Leave a Comment