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Bromhidrosis is a condition of abnormal or offensive body odour, to a large extent determined by apocrine gland secretion, although other sources may play a role. Sudoriferous (sweat) glands are divided into two types: apocrine and eccrine.

Eccrine glands

- Found over the entire body and produce a dilute salt solution in response to increased body temperature.

- Eccrine sweat is normally odourless but can start to smell if bacteria get a chance to break down the stale sweat. It can also assume an offensive odour after ingestion of various substances, including foods (e.g. garlic, curry), alcohol, or certain medications.

Apocrine glands

- Found in limited areas, most notably the underarms, breasts and groin region and produce a thick secretion that contains pheromones (“personal scent”).

- Apocrine sweat is odourless when it first appears on the skin but within an hour bacteria that normally live on the skin break down the sweat to produce an offensive body odour.

- Body odour is worse if there are more bacteria present or the level of apocrine sweat production is high.

Apocrine bromhidrosis is the most common type of bromhidrosis and results from the bacterial breakdown of apocrine sweat, essentially all within the armpit area. Fatty acids and ammonia are the major products of bacterial breakdown and the odour has been described as pungent, rancid, musty or “sour and sweet”.

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