What Are Cankles?

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Our feet and ankles do so much for us. From lifting a ballet dancer to absorbing the runner’s foot shock and helping the gymnast land successfully, the ankles ensure every step you take is sure-footed. Sometimes you get swollen calves and ankles known as cankles. But why does it happen?

Read this article to learn more about cankles and how to get rid of cankles.

What are cankles or thick ankles?

Ankles vary in shape and size. Our genetics decide the dimensions of our ankles for the most part. There is nothing unhealthy or inherently dangerous about having large or thick ankle bones with plenty of space. 

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What causes Cankles?

Several health conditions can enlarge the normal-sized ankles. These health conditions are serious, and you should visit your doctor as soon as you find out about them.

Lipedema

Lipedema is a painful condition in which the fat is stored beneath the skin of your legs, starting from the hips down. However, it does not affect the way your skin appears. This condition affects women more as compared to men, and around 11% of women in the world are suffering from Lipedema. 

People who have Lipedema bruise easily because the blood vessels become extremely sensitive to any kind of pressure. With the progress in the disease, people may find it difficult to walk.

Lymphedema

Lymphedema is swelling in both legs and arms, which occurs due to some problem in the lymphatic system. If you are suffering from lymphedema, your ankles will become thick when the lymphatic fluid starts to build up in the body. 

The lymphatic system is important for the healthy functioning of body organs. When plasma circulates in the body, it collects all the waste products from your cells. This waste then passes through blood vessels in a web-like lymph vessel network.  

The fluid present in the lymphatic system is called lymph which helps to maintain balance in your body. Lymph fluid can absorb excess fat from the intestine and then produces white blood cells used by the body to fight infections and germs. 

When this lymph system gets damaged, the lymph fluid does not drain, and parts of your body can swell up, causing swollen calves and ankles.

Edema

Edema is a medical term for swelling in the body. If you suffer from edema, your ankles start to appear puffy than usual, and your skin may also feel itchy, light, and stretched. There are various health conditions that can cause cankles. Some of these are mentioned below. 

Venous insufficiency

Our veins contain valves that prevent blood from pooling in lower body parts. When these valves are damaged because of trauma, blood clot, varicose veins, and other weakening, these stop working efficiently. Gravity pulls down towards feet and ankles and causes swelling. 

Deep vein thrombosis (DVT)

DVT can also cause thick ankles. Sometimes when a blood clot blocks the flow of blood to veins, the blockage even prevents the blood from reaching your heart; this causes DVT.

DVT is dangerous because blood clots can sometimes break free and travel to your lungs when it can stop your breathing. When you suffer from DVT, swelling in the ankles can be one of the symptoms. It is extremely important to check with your doctor immediately. 

Congestive heart failure

Congestive heart failure makes the heart weak. When your heart is too weak, it cannot pump blood efficiently, and blood pressure can build up inside the veins. This fluid starts to lean into other tissues and causes swelling. 

Liver disease

Liver diseases like cirrhosis and hepatitis can stop the production of a protein called albumin, which is essential for the body.

Without albumin, fluid can lean out of the blood vessels and go into surrounding tissues. 

Your feet, ankles, hands, and face can all become swelling as a result. 

Kidney disease

The kidney removes all the waste products from the body by flushing out toxins and excess harmful minerals like sodium. When the kidney is not working efficiently, too much sodium and water can get collected in the blood vessels, and pressure starts to rise in the vessels. As a result, you experience cankles, and even areas around the eyes become swollen.

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Pregnancy

Ankle and foot swelling is a common sign of pregnancy, especially in the last trimester.

The hormone levels in the body, efficiency of veins and fluid retention are all affected during pregnancy. It is important to discuss with your doctor if you feel sudden foot swelling along with:

  • severe headache
  • dizziness
  • difficulty breathing

All these symptoms can also be a sign of preeclampsia, which causes high blood pressure. 

Medications

There are certain medications that can also cause swollen calves and ankles.

  • Blood pressure medications
  • Diabetes medication
  • Testosterone
  • Steroids
  • Estrogen 
  • Antidepressants
  • Anti-inflammatory medicine

How To Get Rid of Cankles?

There are certain workouts and exercises which can help you to get rid of cankles. Let’s take a look at the five effective ways to get rid of swollen calves and ankles.

  • Weighted calf raises
  • Stair calf raises
  • Seated calf raises
  • Lunge calf raise
  • Jumping rope

If your ankles are swollen due to any of the above mentioned medical conditions you can also consider these options:

  • Cut down sodium quantity in your diet as it increases the chances of fluid retention.
  • Do calf exercises to strengthen ankles and boost muscles in your calves.
  • Elevate feet
  • Avoid sitting in a position for a long period; make sure to get up after every 30 minutes.

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Final Words:

Your ankles are a true marvel, flexible, strong, and complex. The size and shape of your ankles are largely determined by your genetics; however, due to some health conditions, you may experience swollen calves and ankles.

In this case, you need to visit a healthcare professional urgently, especially if it happens only on one side of the body. It is extremely critical if the swelling is accompanied by quickened heart rate and difficulty in breathing. All these are signs of life-threatening conditions. 

If the size of your ankles concerns you, you can make some lifestyle changes like taking a healthy diet, regular exercise, and low sodium intake to control cankles.

If there is no underlying health condition, and you still have large ankles, it is best to accept them the way they are as a sign of strength instead of fixing them.

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