The Truth About Breast Implant Illness: Separating Fact from Fiction and What You Can Do About It
An alarming, mysterious trend involving breast implants have got even the most elite medical experts scratching their proverbial heads over recent years. Here is everything you need to know about Breast Implant Illness and how you can treat troublesome symptoms.
Though not fully understood, Breast Implant Illness (BII) continues to elude the medical community, leaving the most distinguished experts mystified. But many believe the burgeoning medical disorder’s wide range of inexplicable symptoms may be linked to an autoimmune or inflammatory response to breast implants. BII has been found to affect any person with any type of breast implant, including saline-filled, silicone gel-filled, smooth surface, textured surface, round-shaped, tear-dropped, ruptured, and even intact. BII doesn’t discriminate.
Symptoms to Watch For & Stats You Need to See
While BII is known to affect everyone differently, the following signs and symptoms have been reported by those who have/had breast implant devices:
- Joint/muscle pain
- Chronic fatigue
- Memory lapse/inability to focus
- Breathing difficulties
- Sleep disturbances
- Skin irritation/rashes
- Dry mouth
- Hair loss
- GI issues
Symptoms can surface immediately or any time after breast augmentation surgery using breast implants, leaving some to experience symptoms early, while others develop debilitating effects many years later. In some cases, those who suffer from BII will also get diagnosed with a specific autoimmune/connective tissue disorder, as well. But not everyone. In many cases, explant surgery (surgical removal of breast implants) may be required to improve or completely resolve BII symptoms, though explant surgery doesn’t always resolve all symptoms. Diagnosing and treating BII is akin to replacing the tires on a moving vehicle. Experts are simply researching, ruling out, and figuring it out as they go.
While research is currently underway and continually evolving, there still lacks an official medical diagnosis recognized by the medical community. According to Diana Zuckerman, PhD, “Breast Implant Illness is a cluster of symptoms that have yet to fit into any other classic disease diagnosis.” In October 2021, the United States Food and Drug Administration (FDA) began mandating breast implant manufacturers expose potential risks of symptoms associated with breast implants on their packaging and list their potential effects on the entire body. Additionally, the American Society of Plastic Surgeons, as well as the Aesthetic Surgery Education and Research Foundation and the Plastic Surgery Foundation continue to raise necessary funding for new, progressive research programs into BII to help determine a proper medical diagnosis that won’t leave patients and doctors in the dark and dismayed. Because of the lack of medical diagnosis, there are no official tests that can be conducted to confirm BII, so many plastic surgeons simply resort to ordering an array of tests to review a patient’s medical history to rule out other possible diseases/disorders/conditions that may be contributing to a patient’s ongoing symptoms.
The following fast stats will help make understanding the complexity of BII a bit easier:
- Researchers in the Netherlands studied 80 women with breast implants and concluded symptoms improved in 69% of the patients following explant surgery.
- Less than 1.5% of women with implants will develop any adverse symptoms from their implants.
- Women with silicone gel-filled implants are more likely to be diagnosed with an autoimmune disorder.
Treating BII: What You Need to Know
Dr. Lee recommends explant surgery including removal of part or all the surrounding scar tissue capsule (capsulectomy) as the best course of action to mitigate symptoms long-term. Implant replacement is not recommended for fear of the return of symptoms, as most patients have decided to return to their original breast shape and size, albeit with slackened skin. Some patients may opt for breast reconstruction with “flaps,” fat grafting (fat transfer from another area of the body), or a customized combination of both for a natural-looking result. Often times, Dr. Lee recommends including a breast lift in order to tighten the tissue so the breasts remain perky and youthful even without implants. It should be noted the removal of implants doesn’t always resolve symptoms.
Seeking Support, Staying Informed…and Sticking Together
If you have breast implants and have been routinely experiencing any one or more of the aforementioned symptoms, you may be suffering from BII, or an autoimmune disorder associated with your breast implants. It is highly encouraged you seek medical attention as soon as possible to rule out any other possible diseases and to determine if removal of your breast implants is the most viable option to help treat symptoms. Keep in mind, even if your doctor suggests you have your implants removed once all tests have been conducted, there is still no guarantee symptoms will subside. To get more information about BII and to seek support from others who have navigated this ongoing, enigmatic illness, please visit @breast_implant_wellness on Instagram. Led by Kim Borden, this growing, niche community page is the official Instagram profile to Healingbreastimplantillness.com and features invaluable resources, unfiltered photos, and in-depth discussions about women’s battles with BII. Breast Implant Illness and Healing by Nicole on Facebook currently boasts more than 100,000 members and is another wonderful resource to reach out to women who have/had similar struggles. Building a community and being a voice for one another can not only affect change but help enrich and cultivate a more vigorous medical community focused on the health and harmony of women everywhere.