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Additional recommended knowledge
Locations and morphology
A branched type of acinar gland, these glands exist in humans throughout the skin except in the palms of the hands and soles of the feet.
Sebaceous glands can usually be found in hair-covered areas, where they are connected to hair follicles. The glands deposit sebum on the hairs, and bring it to the skin surface along the hair shaft. The structure consisting of hair, hair follicle, arrector pili muscle, and sebaceous gland is known as a pilosebaceous unit.
Sebaceous glands are also found in non-haired areas (glabrous skin) of eyelids, penis, labia minora, and nipples. Here, the sebum traverses ducts which terminate in sweat pores on the surface of the skin.
Sebaceous glands secrete an oily substance called sebum (Latin, meaning fat or tallow) that is made of fat (lipids) and the debris of dead fat-producing cells. In the glands, sebum is produced within specialized cells and is released as these cells burst; sebaceous glands are thus classified as holocrine glands.
Sebum acts to protect and waterproof hair and skin, and keep them from becoming dry, brittle and cracked. It can also inhibit the growth of microorganisms on skin.
The composition of sebum varies from species to species; in humans, the lipid content is as follows:
Changes during development
The sebaceous glands of a human fetus in utero secrete a substance called Vernix caseosa, a "waxy" or "cheesy" white substance coating the skin of newborns.
The activity of the sebaceous glands increases during puberty because of heightened levels of androgens. In males, sebaceous glands begin to appear predominantly on the penis during and after puberty. This is however normal, not to be confused with an STD. In females, they appear predominantly in the labia minora.
Sebaceous glands are involved in skin problems such as acne and keratosis pilaris. The prescription drug isotretinoin significantly reduces the amount of sebum produced by the sebaceous glands, and is used to treat acne.
The extreme use (up to 10 times doctor prescribed amounts) of anabolic steroids by bodybuilders for muscle gain and repartitioning effects tend to stimulate the sebaceous glands which can cause acne.
A blocked sebaceous gland can result in a sebaceous cyst.
A condition involving enlarged sebaceous glands is known as sebaceous hyperplasia.
Importance to other animals
Certain species of Demodex mites feed on sebum and are commonly found in the sebaceous glands of mammals, including those of humans.
|This article is licensed under the GNU Free Documentation License. It uses material from the Wikipedia article "Sebaceous_gland". A list of authors is available in Wikipedia.|