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Duct vs. Gland: What's the Difference?

Edited by Janet White || By Harlon Moss || Published on November 13, 2023
A duct is a passage or tube for conveying fluids, while a gland is an organ that produces and releases substances either into the bloodstream or into cavities inside the body.

Key Differences

Duct and gland are both anatomical structures, but they serve different functions within the body. A duct is essentially a channel or a conduit that is designed to transport fluids from one place to another. For instance, bile ducts transport bile from the liver to the small intestine, ensuring the efficient digestion of fats.
Gland, on the other hand, is a specialized cell or group of cells that produce and secrete substances. There are various glands in the human body, each responsible for producing distinct substances. For instance, the thyroid gland produces hormones that regulate metabolism, while sweat glands produce sweat to regulate body temperature.
Ducts often work in conjunction with glands. For example, when a gland produces a particular substance, it might require a duct to transport that substance to its intended location or to the body's exterior. The salivary glands, for instance, produce saliva which is then transported to the mouth via salivary ducts.
While glands can be endocrine (secreting directly into the bloodstream) or exocrine (secreting into ducts), ducts serve the primary function of acting as transportation channels. An endocrine gland like the pituitary gland releases hormones directly into the bloodstream, while an exocrine gland like the pancreas releases digestive enzymes into ducts that lead to the digestive tract.
It's important to recognize that while all exocrine glands utilize ducts to transport their secretions, not all ducts are associated with glands. Some ducts in the body, like the common bile duct, transport fluids but aren't directly connected to a glandular structure.

Comparison Chart


A channel or conduit that transports fluids.
An organ that produces and secretes substances.


Transports substances from one location to another.
Produces and secretes substances either into the bloodstream or into body cavities.

Connection to Glands

Often transports substances produced by glands.
Some glands secrete substances that are then transported via ducts.


Bile duct, salivary duct, etc.
Endocrine (secretes into bloodstream) and exocrine (secretes into ducts or cavities).

Examples of Association

The salivary duct transports saliva produced by the salivary gland.
The sweat gland produces sweat which is transported to the skin surface.

Duct and Gland Definitions


A passage that conveys fluids.
The bile duct carries bile from the liver to the intestine.


A cell or group of cells excreting materials.
The sebaceous gland releases oils to keep the skin moisturized.


A conduit in machines or buildings to carry substances.
The air duct circulates air throughout the building.


An organ that secretes substances.
The pituitary gland releases several vital hormones.


A tubular structure for transportation in organisms.
The tear duct helps drain excess tears from the eyes.


A structure producing and releasing specific chemicals.
The adrenal gland produces adrenaline in response to stress.


A channel in anatomical structures.
Blocked ducts can lead to medical complications.


An anatomical unit that produces hormones or enzymes.
The pancreas is a gland producing both digestive enzymes and insulin.


An often enclosed passage or channel for conveying a substance, especially a liquid or gas.


An entity that synthesizes compounds for bodily use.
The thyroid gland regulates metabolism through hormone secretion.


(Anatomy) A tubular bodily canal or passage, especially one for carrying a glandular secretion
A tear duct.


Any of various organs or cell groups, such as the adrenal glands and the salivary glands, that are of endothelial origin and secrete a substance that is used or excreted by the body.


Can you name a gland that secretes directly into the bloodstream?

Yes, the pituitary gland is an endocrine gland that secretes hormones directly into the bloodstream.

How does a gland function?

A gland produces and secretes substances either into the bloodstream or into body cavities.

What is an example of a duct not connected to a gland?

The bile duct, which transports bile from the liver to the intestine, isn't directly connected to a glandular structure.

What is the difference between endocrine and exocrine glands?

Endocrine glands secrete substances directly into the bloodstream, while exocrine glands secrete into ducts or body cavities.

Is the sweat duct connected to a gland?

Yes, the sweat duct is connected to the sweat gland and transports sweat to the skin surface.

What is the main purpose of a duct?

A duct primarily acts as a channel to transport fluids.

Are all ducts connected to glands?

No, while many ducts transport secretions from glands, not all ducts are associated with glands.

What could cause swelling of a gland?

Infections, hormonal imbalances, or other medical conditions can lead to glandular swelling.

Are ducts and veins similar?

Both can transport fluids, but ducts primarily convey substances produced by glands, while veins carry blood.

Which gland is responsible for adrenaline?

The adrenal gland produces adrenaline.

Can a gland produce enzymes?

Yes, for example, the pancreas, an exocrine gland, produces digestive enzymes.

Why are blocked ducts a concern?

Blocked ducts can prevent necessary fluids from being transported, leading to medical complications.

Can a blockage occur in a duct?

Yes, blockages in ducts can prevent fluid transportation and can lead to medical issues.

Are all glands visible to the naked eye?

No, some glands, like the pituitary gland, are small and not visible without medical imaging.

Do ducts exist outside of biological contexts?

Yes, ducts can also refer to conduits in machines or buildings, like air ducts.

Are there glands that both secrete into the bloodstream and use ducts?

Yes, the pancreas is an example; it releases insulin into the bloodstream and digestive enzymes into ducts.

What is the function of the mammary gland?

The mammary gland produces milk, which is transported via milk ducts.

Do all organisms have glands?

No, while many organisms have glands, they can vary in structure and function across species.

Can ducts expand or contract?

Some ducts, like those in the respiratory system, can expand or contract to facilitate fluid flow.

Which gland regulates metabolism?

The thyroid gland produces hormones that regulate metabolism.
About Author
Written by
Harlon Moss
Harlon is a seasoned quality moderator and accomplished content writer for Difference Wiki. An alumnus of the prestigious University of California, he earned his degree in Computer Science. Leveraging his academic background, Harlon brings a meticulous and informed perspective to his work, ensuring content accuracy and excellence.
Edited by
Janet White
Janet White has been an esteemed writer and blogger for Difference Wiki. Holding a Master's degree in Science and Medical Journalism from the prestigious Boston University, she has consistently demonstrated her expertise and passion for her field. When she's not immersed in her work, Janet relishes her time exercising, delving into a good book, and cherishing moments with friends and family.

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