Why Are Your Sweat Glands Under Armpit Blocked?

A blocked sweat gland under armpit can cause signs like painful bumps and bad smell. Learn how to live with it and how blocked sweat glands can be treated.

A blocked sweat gland under armpit is usually due to a condition known as Hidradenitis supperativa. Blocked sweat glands can also affect other areas including the groin, underneath the breasts or on the buttocks. It is most commonly seen in overweight people, black women and people who are exposed to heat and humidity on a regular basis.

What Causes Your Sweat Gland in Armpit to Be Blocked?

It isn’t completely clear what causes blocked sweat gland in armpit. Researchers believe it may be blocked hair follicles or a blocked sweat gland opening. There could be excess sebum in the sebaceous glands that block the glands, while the sweat glands are still producing sweat. This forces the sweat into the gland, instead of out of the gland. Trapped bacteria thrive on warm and moist areas and get a ride into the gland on the beads of sweat. This leads to inflammation and infection.

Another possible cause of blockage may be congenital malformations in the sweat glands, in which the sweat glands don't develop correctly and completely.

How Do You Know If a Sweat Gland Is Blocked?

The first signs of hidradenitis supperativa usually come on during puberty when the sweat glands in the armpits and groin become more active. Symptoms usually occur close to a hair follicle. This is where our sweat glands are located. The areas with the most symptoms tend to be groin, armpit, and around the buttocks near the anus. Some people have symptoms in other areas of close contact like underneath breasts, and the inner thigh area. It may not just affect one area if the disease is severe.

Symptoms of Blocked Sweat Gland

  • Painful Bumps and Smell. You may notice small red and painful bumps. They are like blisters and can break open and drain. You may notice a foul smell coming from them. Symptoms with these bumps include burning, more sweat than normal, and itching.
  • Open Lesions. There may be open sores that take time to heal. They often leak fluid. They can lead to “tunneling” under the surface of the skin and scarring after they heal.
  • Blackheads. Certain areas of the skin may contain crops of blackheads. These crops always have two together, which is common in this disease.
  • Pea-sized Lumps – There can be pea-sized lumps embedded under your skin. They sometimes become enlarged, inflamed and do not go away for years.

Possible Complications of Blocked Sweat Gland in Armpit

If you have the above symptoms, you should see a doctor for evaluation and treatment. If hidradenitis supperativa is left untreated, complications can develop including:

  • Scarring or permanent skin damage. If you have a severe case, you may notice long twisting scars, pitting, or permanently discolored patches of skin.
  • Decreased lymph drainage. You may have a lesion near a lymph node and develop scar tissue in the area. This can block the lymph channels and prevent them from draining properly. This can cause swelling to the genitals, arms, or legs.
  • Reduced ability to move an extremity. If you have swelling in an area, open lesions, or even scar tissue you may have trouble moving your arm or leg.
  • Withdrawal and depression. Depending on the appearance and possible odor of drainage, these things may cause you to withdraw from social activities. The emotional impact can lead to depression over time.
  • Other complications include skin cancer, Joint pains and inflammation, malaise, and Fistula formation.

Home Remedies for Blocked Sweat Gland

1) Lose weight. This can help prevent excess sweating and the rubbing of body parts.

2) Don’t smoke. Smoking can increase inflammation in the body.

3) Do not shave. Shaving the armpits or groin can rub bacteria into the glands.

4) No perfumes or deodorant. If you have lesions, do not use deodorant or perfumes in the affected area.

5) Wear loose clothing made of 100% cotton to keep you from sweating.

6) Use hot compresses. Try a hot and moist compress on the area to help the lesions drain. This can also help relieve pressure from swelling.

7) Avoid getting too hot. Try to keep your skin cool to prevent sweating. Stay away from heat sources, saunas and exercise gently when it is warm.

8) Keep the area clean and dry. Use a good antibacterial soap when you shower to keep your skin free of germs. In most cases, bacteria are not a problem but in chronic disease it should be kept clear.

9) Keep groin area cool and clean. Hidradenitis suppurativa groin refers to frequent boils in groin. If this occurs, make sure you wear cotton underwear and keep your groin area clean and dry.

What Is The Treatment for Blocked Sweat Gland?

A blocked sweat gland in armpit is actually hard to control if it is due to hidradenitis supperativa. If caught early on, treatment is more effective. Treatments include:

Treatment Options

Description

Oral Antibiotics

 

The doctor may prescribe a short course of oral antibiotics to help clear up any infection. This will help reduce swelling and pain. If the condition is severe, long-term antibiotics may be used to prevent new infections and as an anti-inflammatory.

Topical Antibiotics

 

Using topical antibiotics can help remove any bacteria that are living on the skin. Sometimes a preparation is used with benzoyl peroxide to help dry up the skin.

Steroids

 

Steroids can be used to help control inflammation. They are not used for long periods of time due to adverse effects on the body.

Retinoids

These are medications that are derived from vitamin A. Dermatologists prescribe them to prevent the sebaceous glands from secreting sebum. Retinoids also increase dead skin cell shedding so the pores don’t become blocked.

There is a risk of birth defects and should not be used during pregnancy or if you are planning to become pregnant.

Contraceptive

 

In women, going on “the pill” may help balance hormone levels. High levels of male hormones can cause excess oils on the skin and contraceptives may help to clear the skin condition. There are risks to this treatment.

Immune System Drugs

 

A dermatologist can use drugs that reduce immune system responses and inflammation in the body. These need to be watched carefully by your doctor and can cause side-effects such as kidney failure and reduced blood counts.

Surgery

 

If a lesion turns into an abscess, it may need to be opened up and drained. The doctor may give oral antibiotics before and after an incision and drainage to prevent the spread of infection. Rarely, major surgery and skin grafts are needed.

Laser Therapy

 

Dermatologist can burn off any bad tissue with a laser. This does not have to be done in a hospital and recovery is quick. These treatments are new and can be expensive.

Prognosis for Blocked Sweat Gland in Armpit

The good news is, not all sufferers experience severe issues. A blocked sweat gland armpit may occur once and never happen again. If it does progress, it depends on the severity of the disease. Severe disease can be debilitating. Rarely, infections can be fatal if untreated. 

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