The basic mechanisms of sweat gland function and an updated review of some relatively common disorders of sweat secretion, are presented. Although sweat secretion and ductal absorption are basically biophysical and biologic cellular processes, a detailed description of the basic biophysical principles of membrane transport has been avoided to make the discussion more readable. The cited references will, however, help those readers primarily interested in the basic details of sweat gland function. Part I of this article includes a discussion of morphologic characteristics, central and peripheral nervous control of sweat secretion, neurotransmitters, intracellular mediators and stimulus secretion coupling, Na-K-Cl cotransport model for the ionic mechanism of sweat secretion, ingredients of sweat, ductal function, the pathogenesis of abnormal sweat gland function in cystic fibrosis, and the discovery of the apoeccrine sweat gland. Part II, to be published in the May issue of the Journal, reviews reports of all those major disorders of hyperhidrosis and hypohidrosis that have appeared in the literature during the past 10 years. It is hoped that this review will serve as a resource for clinicians who encounter puzzling disorders of sweating in their patients, as well as for investigators who wish to obtain a quick update on sweat gland function.