Breast Implant Illness: What Do I Need to Know?
Breast augmentation procedures are among our most popular offerings. Our triple-board-certified surgeon Dr. Leo Lapuerta has been helping patients in Texas for 20 years get the body they desire with safety, care, and compassion.
Occasionally, patients come to us with questions about a condition they’ve read about, called Breast Implant Illness. It’s always a good idea to do your research before undergoing a procedure. Questions related to breast augmentation include:
- What is Breast Implant Illness (BII)?
- Is Breast Implant Illness real?
- Does it affect every augmentation patient?
- What are the signs and symptoms of Breast Implant Illness?
Here, we will discuss Breast Implant Illness and the known causes, symptoms, and treatment options for the condition. If you have any additional questions or concerns surrounding Breast Implant Illness, we are happy to answer them during your breast enhancement consultation session.
What is Breast Implant Illness?
Generally, breast enhancement patients are happy with their results and the choice to have surgery. However, on occasion, patients have reported worrying symptoms which are suspected to be due to complications caused by their implants. These symptoms are often referred to as Breast Implant Illness, or BII. In some cases, patients believe that their implants have triggered diseases like Sjögren’s syndrome, rheumatoid arthritis, and scleroderma.
Despite the very real symptoms and conditions experienced by many implant or reconstruction patients, Breast Implant Illness has yet to be classified as an official medical condition and is not diagnosable. Due to this, there is very little official research on the condition. However, it is unofficially recognized by a number of medical professionals, many of whom hope for this to soon change. Says National Center for Health Research president Diana Zuckerman, “We believe that it will eventually be recognized as a medical condition, but that process will take time.”
While the official recognition is yet to come, several major institutions have been making waves in furthering BII awareness. A notable institution is the FDA, which released a 2019 statement declaring that they are “taking steps to better characterize [BII] and its risk factors, and are considering ways to help to ensure women have all of the information they need to make informed decisions about whether to obtain breast implants or to remove existing breast implants in an effort to reverse systemic symptoms.” They went on to advise implant manufacturers to include information on BII and its symptoms, as well as a warning, on their labels. This advice also led to manufacturers including a “decision checklist” for patients to fill out before their procedure.
In recent years, institutions like the World Health Organization have flagged a link between breast implants and a rare form of cancer. This disease is known as breast implant-associated anaplastic large cell lymphoma, or BIA-ALCL. Although experts have identified this concern, there is still much research to be done. Currently, scientists believe that BIA-ALCL could be due to bacterial infection.
How Common is Breast Implant Illness?
Unfortunately, this is a difficult answer to pin down. Because Breast Implant Illness has not been properly researched, accurate statistics about the condition do not exist. However, it is possible to use the internet to glean some understanding of how common BII really is. Patients who believe they are experiencing symptoms often join online communities for support — and these groups often have thousands of members. Presumably, most of these members have experienced what they believe are symptoms of Breast Implant Illness themselves.
What are Breast Implant Illness Symptoms?
There is a wide range of symptoms associated with Breast Implant Illness, some of which could be more serious than others. If you think you are experiencing any of the following Breast Implant Illness symptoms, seek medical attention, as they are associated with BIA-ALCL.
- Post-Healing Pain or Swelling
If implants are swollen or painful, and the breast is completely healed from surgery, this can be a sign of BIA-ALCL.
- Collecting Fluid
If there’s fluid collecting around your implant, this could be a symptom of BIA-ALCL.
- Capsular Contracture
This symptom, which refers to a misshapen breast appearance caused by a lump beneath the skin, can also be a sign of BIA-ALCL.
Infected implants can lead to BIA-ALCL. Signs of an infected implant include pain, discharge, swelling, blotchiness, a fever, or a change to the shape or color of the breast.
There are other symptoms associated with Breast Implant Illness, many of which are associated with autoimmune disorders. Some of these Breast Implant Illness symptoms are:
- Muscle and/or Joint Pain
- Problems Concentrating or with Memory
- Poor Sleep
- Respiratory Issues
- Dry Mouth and Eyes
- Digestive Issues
- Anxiety and Depression
- Skin Issues (Like Rashes)
What Do I Do if I Think I Have Breast Implant Illness?
There are not yet official diagnostics or tests available to diagnose Breast Implant Illness as a disease itself. However, BIA-ALCL and autoimmune issues which have been associated with implants are diagnosable.
If you think you are experiencing symptoms of Breast Implant Illness, we recommend visiting both your GP and plastic surgeon to discuss treatment options.
How is Breast Implant Illness Treated?
With most systemic Breast Implant Illness cases, symptoms are improved by removing the implant altogether. However, for patients with BIA-ALCL, the implant will likely be removed, but further treatment will also be required. This will depend on the stage of the diagnosis.
Schedule a Consultation Today!
We’ve been working with breast enhancement patients across Southeast Texas for over 20 years. Whether you have questions going into your breast implant or revision surgery, or think a removal is in your best interest, Dr. Leo Lapuerta is here to meet your needs. Get in touch with our team today for a free and discreet consultation with Dr. Lapuerta, who is here to answer all your questions and help you make the best decision for your body.