Request Appointment
Georgia Endovascular Logo
Types of Lymphedema
Schedule an Appointment

Are Cankles a Sign of Lymphedema?

Cankles are an unflattering colloquial term used to describe ankles that appear thicker than usual due to a lack of distinction between the calf and ankle. While cankles can be nothing more than a cosmetic issue, more serious complications might be at play.

A host of factors can cause cankles. These include obesity, genetics, and medical conditions such as lymphedema.

Lymphedema is a chronic condition. It is characterized by the accumulation of lymph fluid, usually in the upper or lower extremities, due to a lymphatic system disorder.

Lymphedema is a serious issue that can cause long-term health problems if left untreated. It can lead to skin infections and impaired movement.

It is important to seek lymphedema treatment as soon as possible. There are different types of lymphedema, each with its own causes and symptoms.

Why are my ankles swelling? Examining categories of lymphedema

If your legs are swelling due to lymphedema, you might never know the cause. However, your risk of lymphedema is elevated by factors including obesity, genetics, and medical conditions such as diabetes. Lymphedema can lead to debilitating symptoms, so seeking treatment as soon as possible is important.

The two main categories of lymphedema are the following:

Primary Lymphedema

Primary lymphedema is a rare form of the condition that is usually inherited. It occurs when there is an abnormality or malformation in the lymphatic vessels, causing them to function inadequately. This type of lymphedema can manifest at any age, from birth to adulthood, and may affect one or both limbs.

Secondary Lymphedema

Secondary lymphedema is the most common type and is often caused by damage to the lymphatic system. This damage can occur due to surgery, radiation therapy, infection, trauma, or other medical conditions. Unlike primary lymphedema, secondary lymphedema typically occurs later in life and is more likely to affect one limb, although it can also affect both.

Pregnant women are also at risk for developing lymphedema due to the increased pressure on the lymphatic system. Pregnant women at risk for lymphedema should be monitored closely to ensure that any signs of swelling are detected early.

If lymphedema is diagnosed during pregnancy, treatment options may be limited, as many treatments are not recommended for pregnant women. It is important to speak with a doctor to discuss the best course of action for managing lymphedema during pregnancy. However, further medical interventions might not be necessary if the swelling resolves after delivery.

Kidney disease can lead to secondary lymphedema due to lymphatic system damage.

Does venous insufficiency cause lymphedema?

Venous insufficiency can cause secondary lymphedema. It occurs when the veins do not adequately return blood and fluid to the heart, leading to fluid retention in the limbs. This complication can damage the lymphatic system and lead to lymphedema.

Deep vein thrombosis (DVT) can also raise the risk of secondary lymphedema. DVT is a disorder where a blood clot occurs in the body's deep veins, primarily in the legs, leading to severe pain and swelling. Over time, an unmanaged DVT can lead to chronic venous insufficiency. Unmanaged venous disease can cause secondary lymphedema.

Symptoms of venous insufficiency include the following conditions:

Are lymphedema and edema the same?

While lymphedema and edema have similar symptoms, edema is a venous disorder rather than a lymphatic disorder.

Edema is a medical condition in which excess fluid accumulates in the body's tissues, resulting in swelling. Multiple medical conditions, including kidney disease, venous insufficiency, trauma, or infection, can cause it. In some cases, edema can signal a more serious medical condition, such as heart failure.

Are lymphedema and lipedema the same?

Lymphedema and lipedema are two separate conditions that are often confused.

Lymphedema is a chronic lymphatic system disorder that can lead to swelling in the arms and legs. Lipedema is a fatty (adipose) tissue disorder characterized by disproportionate fat deposits in the legs, thighs, and buttocks.

Lipedema is typically seen in women and is often accompanied by chronic pain and tenderness. Both conditions can cause swelling—however, lymphedema results from damage to the lymphatic system. An abnormal ingrowth of fatty tissue causes Lipedema.

Stemmer's Sign

One sign that unusual swelling is due to lymphedema and not lipedema is a positive Stemmer's sign.

Stemmer's sign is a symptom of lymphedema, characterized by swelling of the skin on the toes or fingers and the inability to pinch the skin.

Types of Lipedema

Lipedema has multiple classifications. These types include type 1 (non-pitting), type 2 (pitting), and type 3 (mixed). Type 1 lipedema is characterized by fat deposits that don't easily compress when pinched, while type 2 lipedema is associated with fat deposits that compress easily. Type 3 lipedema combines type 1 and 2 with fat deposits exhibiting both characteristics.

Lipedema treatment focuses on managing adipose tissue accumulation to prevent the retention of lymphatic fluid.

How do I know if my cankles need to be treated?

It is imperative to consult a specialist to determine the cause of the cankles and decide on appropriate treatment.

Your doctor can conduct a physical exam, obtain imaging tests, and review any underlying medical conditions to determine the best action. If cankles are caused by venous insufficiency, a doctor may advise lifestyle adjustments such as exercising, losing excess weight, and compression stockings to help improve circulation and reduce swelling.

Significant changes in the appearance or sensation of your legs merit immediate medical intervention. Georgia Endovascular offers the most comprehensive treatment for venous insufficiency-related lymphedema.

Our team of experienced physicians specializes in minimally invasive treatments such as sclerotherapy that can reduce swelling and improve the appearance of the legs. We also provide comprehensive education and support services to help our patients manage their conditions. Our expertise and care can help you get the best treatment outcome.

Contact our caring team today!

Take the Quiz
Georgia Endovascular leaf icon
Contact Us
Experienced Vein Specialists
Find out why more patients choose non-surgical vascular and vein clinics for treating various venous diseases. Schedule an appointment with our vein specialists today.
Schedule an Appointment
Georgia Endovascular Logo in white
Contact Us
3225 Cumberland Blvd. Southeast
Suite 520
Atlanta, GA 30339
Monday – Friday
8am – 5pm


Please contact our dedicated specialists to schedule a consultation today.

Schedule an Appointment
sister site - Georgia Fibroids logo in whitesister site - Georgia Hemorrhoid logo in whitesister site - Georgia Knee Institute logo in whitesister site - Georgia prostate institute logo in white

2024 Georgia Endovascular. All rights reserved. Website Design by Healthcare Success