What is a gland?
A gland is an organised collection of cells that functions as a
secretory or excretory organ. The human body has many different types
of glands situated in various organs. Glands generally produce
hormones or enzymes or other substances that perform essential
When people talk about "swollen glands", they are often talking
about lymph nodes. Lymph nodes and lymphatic vessels form a network
in the body which plays an essential role in fighting infection. The
lymph nodes contain white blood cells called lymphocytes which help
destroy bacteria or other harmful cells. They can therefore become
enlarged or swollen when they are fighting an infection because they
must produce additional white blood cells.
Clusters of lymph nodes are found on either side of the neck, in
the armpits and in the groin. Swelling of the neck lymph nodes is
often associated with a throat or respiratory tract infection.
Swollen lymph nodes in the groin may be indicative of infection in
the legs or genital area.
As lymphatic vessels drain tissue fluid (lymph) to lymph nodes,
cancer can spread via the lymphatic system and swollen lymph nodes
may sometimes be indicative of the spread of cancer.
If you notice swollen lymph glands , you should have them checked
by a doctor.
Glands form an important part of the endocrine system, the system
in the body that involves hormones. Some of such endocrine glands
1) Pituitary gland: The pituitary is a small gland found
near the base of the brain. It is an important regulator of many
hormones, interacting with signals from the hypothalamus to help
produce various hormones (FSH and LH), which drive the production of
"sex hormones" oestrogen and testosterone.
It also produces a hormone called prolactin,important in the
production of milk.
2) Thyroid gland: The thyroid gland is situated in
the neck, overlying part of the trachea. It is responsible for
producing thyroid hormone, which has many functions in various
tissues of the body.(see articles on hypothyroidism(under active) and
3) Adrenal glands:
These glands, otherwise known as the suprarenal glands, small
triangular glands situated on top of each kidney. They function
interactively with the hypothalamus in the brain and the pituitary to
produces many different hormones, including cortisol and
This important gland is both an endocrine (hormone-producing) and
an exocrine (enzyme-secreting) gland. The most important hormone
produced by the pancreas is insulin, essential for the body's
regulation of sugar. The exocrine function of the pancreas concerns
the production of important enzymes which help digestion.
Other important glands
1) Salivary glands: The salivary glands are located in and
around the mouth and throat. They secret saliva into the mouth, which
moistens the mouth, aids digestion and helps protect teeth from
Small stones can occasionally form in the glands or their ducts
and cause swelling and pain on eating. This obstruction of the flow
of saliva can sometimes lead to infection and may need antibiotic
Mumps is a well-known viral infection of the parotid glands, the
largest salivary glands.
2) Prostate: The prostate is a small gland located
just underneath the bladder in males. Secretions from the prostate
form part of the seminal fluid (semen). Enlargement of the prostate
is common in older men, and can lead to difficulties passing urine.
In these cases, medical advice should be sought. The underlying cause
may be benign (Benign Prostatic Hyperplasia) or malignant and
appropriate treatment can usually be instituted.