Breast implant surgery has been the most popular cosmetic procedure in the U.S. for over twenty years. Currently, over 300,000 women in the U.S. opt for the surgery every year, with an estimated total of four million women alive today with breast implants.
Although publication RealSelf tells us that 98% of women with breast plants are happy with the results of their procedure, there has recently been growing concern in some patients regarding breast implant illness (BII).
With this in mind, we at the Plastic Surgery Services of Fredericksburg would like to discuss and inform you about the circumstances surrounding BII openly, and how it may impact your breast augmentation decision.
What is Breast Implant Illness?
Although not an official medical diagnosis, BII refers to a group of symptoms that some women who have had breast implant surgery experience.
Severity of these symptoms vary among those affected, but symptoms frequently reported include “fatigue, chest pain, hair loss, headaches, chills, photosensitivity, chronic pain, rash, body odor, anxiety, brain fog, sleep disturbance, depression, neurologic issues and hormonal issues that they feel are directly connected to their saline or silicone, textured or smooth breast implants.”[i]
[i] “Breast Implant Illness: Frequently Asked Questions and Talking Points.” American Society of Aesthetic Plastic Surgery. Jan 2015.
What Causes Breast Implant Illness?
What causes some women with breast implants to experience these symptoms remains unknown. However, some professionals speculate that BII may be due to an allergic reaction to silicone, much the same as how some people react poorly to penicillin.
Swelling, rashes, and fatigue are all common allergic reactions. With breast implant surgery, foreign bodies are permanently introduced into the patient’s physique. In the majority of cases, the patient’s body accepts these devices and heals well after the surgery.
If the patient were to be allergic to silicone, however, their body would reject the implants, and their immune system would attack the inserts. This reaction could potentially explain full-body swelling, rashes, and chronic pain – all signs that the immune system is rejecting something in the body.
How Many Women are Reporting Breast Implant Illness?
BII was first brought to public attention as long ago as 1990. Reporter Connie Chung shared stories of women describing these symptoms on a CBS broadcast. However, the medical industry dismissed these reports due to a lack of scientific evidence.
With the connectivity provided by modern social media, online Facebook groups and communities give women experiencing these symptoms a platform to connect and share their experiences.
Although there are no official numbers, these groups consist of thousands of breast implant patients reporting negative symptoms, which they believe are attributed to their implants.
As these numbers have been growing, it is clear that BII is an issue that needs to be given proper attention and medical study, so that future breast implant patients can be adequately informed about any potential risks that breast implants might present.
What is the Risk of Developing Brest Implant Illness?
As yet, there is no standardized testing that could diagnose BII. In fact, researchers haven’t been able to provide the details that would lead to a concrete medical BII diagnosis. Studies surrounding BII have failed to identify a direct link between the implants and the symptoms. Without these key facts, the medical industry is currently unable to say which women are most at risk for developing the symptoms.
Furthermore, many of the symptoms described by breast implant patients are also reported by the general public. By no means does this imply that the symptoms women report are not real – only that more thorough, targeted research is necessary to prove or disprove the existence of BII as a distinct medical entity.
Does Removing the Implants Relieve Symptoms?
Currently, no study shows conclusive evidence on which symptoms are relieved once the breast implants have been removed.
In some cases, symptoms are permanently relieved; however, in other cases symptoms linger and only temporarily disappear after the implants are removed.
Studies to date have not identified a direct correlation between breast implants and any particular disease progression. As such, it remains unknown which symptoms may or may not be relieved by the removal of the implants.
However, this is precisely why further research regarding any link between breast implants and potential illness is necessary.
Is Breast Implant Illness the same as BIA-ALCL?
BIA-ALCL is a rare form of lymphoma which researchers have linked largely with Allergan’s textured Biocell Implant.
In 2019, the FDA requested Allergan to recall certain models of their implants.
Breast Implant Illness (BII) is separate from BIA-ALCL. Whereas BIA-ALCL is a relatively new development surrounding implants, some women with breast implants have been reporting BII symptoms for over three decades.
Are There Alternatives to Breast Implants?
There are numerous alternative procedures available to women who feel worried about BII. Fat transfer can produce breast augmentation by redistributing fatty tissues to the breast to provide greater volume and shape. Breast lift surgery reshapes the bust by removing excess skin and repositioning the nipple.
It is important to keep in mind that despite the severity of the reported BII symptoms, 98% of women who get breast implants are satisfied with their results.
The medical industry is paying close attention to the calls of women reporting BII symptoms, and more research and funding is being allocated to investigate the conditions surrounding BII accurately.
As such, if you are considering breast implant surgery, you must be aware of all the potential risks involved with the procedure.
We at the Plastic Surgery Services of Fredericksburg are committed to the highest standards of patient safety and satisfaction, which is why we would like to bring BII to your attention.
We want to stress, however, that the vast majority of breast implant surgeries provide women with beneficial, highly satisfactory results that they enjoy for years after their procedure.
To further discuss BII with our board-certified plastic surgeons, please don’t hesitate to call 540-371-7730 or fill out our online form to arrange a consultation where we can fully inform you about the circumstances surrounding the condition.