Cankles Fact Sheet

Rediscover your once-graceful ankles with this cankle-banishing fact sheet.

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Haven't seen your ankles for a while? You could be suffering from the dreaded cankles. Many women complain about this common problem, when graceful ankles thicken and the calf appears to merge with the ankle. Learn when this problem is more than just cosmetic and what you can do to find your ankles again with this simple fact sheet.

What causes cankles?
There are a few common things that can cause cankles, but some are more worrisome than others. First, weight gain can lead to cankles by increasing fat stores in the leg, which are then pulled downward by gravity. Second, if your body is retaining too much fluid, the tissues in the lower calf and ankle may swell, making the ankles appear wider. This commonly occurs during pregnancy and usually resolves after the baby is born, but it can also be due to kidney disease, heart failure, a blood clot or a blockage in the lymphatic system, among other medical problems. Third, some people may simply be genetically predisposed to having thicker ankles.

When should I worry?
Most cankles are not a sign of serious disease, and are simply due to genetics or weight gain. However, if your cankles appeared over a short period of time, are progressively worsening, are painful or swollen, feel much warmer or cooler than your other skin, or if the overlying skin is red, you should see a doctor. In addition, this simple test can help you decide if your cankles might be a sign of something more serious: Take a finger and push into your cankle. Fat and normal fluids will usually bounce right back. But, if your finger leaves a dent or imprint in your skin, that suggests that you have abnormal fluid buildup (medically termed "pitting edema") and should see a doctor.

What can I do about cankles?
Anyone with the alarming signs listed above should see a doctor about his or her cankles. For others, however, a few creative solutions could help minimize cankles and give ankles back their graceful taper.

  • Hemorrhoid cream: Over-the-counter hemorrhoid creams can temporarily firm and tighten the skin. This isn't a good long-term fix and should only be used occasionally, but it can be a quick help if you're dressing up for a night out. This may not be a good solution for everyone, so always ask your doctor before trying a new remedy or supplement.
  • Parsley tea: Parsley can act as a natural diuretic, helping your body pee out excess fluids. You can buy this in a health food store or make your own by boiling fresh parsley in hot water. Drink a cup a day.
  • Pointed-toe flats: Shoes with pointy toes can make your feet look longer, which gives the illusion of lengthening the whole leg. Nude-toned shoes can also have the same elongating effect.
  • Jump rope: Without expensive surgery, it's impossible to remove fat just from the ankles, but you can tone your calves to make your ankles look smaller. Many gyms now have classes that specifically target this problem area. Many of these exercise programs center around a childhood favorite – jumping rope. Try jumping rope for 10 minutes a day to help thin out your cankles.