Breast augmentation is and has been the most frequently performed cosmetic surgical procedure since 2006. This was the year that the FDA cleared new silicone implants for use in breast augmentation. In 2018 alone, the National Plastics Surgery Report stated that 331,000 women had breast augmentation surgery and the numbers continue to climb.
Sometimes women experience adverse side effects and symptoms due to breast augmentation, but they are not the symptoms that are normally associated with breast implants. If you are considering breast implants or have them, it is important to know the breast implant illness symptoms and signs to watch for.
What Is Breast Implant Illness?
Breast implant illness (BII) is not an official medical term but it has been used to describe symptoms that women have experienced after using breast implants for an augmentation or breast reconstruction.
Many of the symptoms that present and are included in the breast implant illness symptoms list are also associated with lupus, scleroderma, and rheumatoid arthritis which are autoimmune diseases and connective tissue disorders.
Unfortunately, there has not been much research or data collection to reporting breast implant illness statistics or how many women have experienced BII after receiving breast implants.
We are learning more about BII because women have been sharing their experiences on social media and raising awareness of the condition. (there are social media groups over 100,000 strong dedicated to BII) Because the word is beginning to get out, more women have been reporting symptoms to their doctors and the FDA.
Signs of Breast Implant Illness
There are risks associated with any surgery or implanting a foreign object in your body. Each woman is unique and many have no issues at all but there have been women who have experienced side effects after breast implants.
Some women reported having symptoms soon after having their implants inserted, and others did not develop symptoms until years later. BII causes so many different symptoms that when combined do not “fit” together as a recognizable disease or condition. Many medical experts feel that BII will be classified as a medical condition in the future.
Dr. Cohen Tervaert (rheumatologist, clinical immunologist) has spent over 30 years working with patients who develop rheumatic diseases or conditions after ”foreign body” implantations (mesh, knee, hip, and breast implants). During the March 25th, 2019 FDA meeting of the General and Plastic Surgery Devices Panel, Dr. Tervaert spoke about BII and said that there was enough evidence to conclude that BII is caused by breast implants and that they can cause a foreign body reaction that activates the immune system.
Some symptoms of breast implant illness that women have experienced include:
- Memory and/or concentration issues – forgetfulness, brain fog, loss of memory, and finding it difficult to concentrate.
- Ongoing fatigue – having virtually no energy all day long.
- Imbalance in hormones – menstrual cycle irregularities, skipped menstrual cycles, early menopause, weight gain or weight loss, excessive body odor, losing hair, low sex drive, thyroid and/or adrenal issues, e.g. hyperfunction or hypofunction.
- Digestive system issues – metabolic changes, constipation, gastrointestinal issues (leaky gut), which often signal an autoimmune issue.
- Sleep issues – not being able to sleep at all or having issues staying asleep.
- Changes in the breast – change in shape, size, or color, redness, discharge, swelling, rash, or pain could indicate a leaking implant.
- Skin problems – eczema, pigmentation changes, freckling, rashes, or allergic reactions.
- Eye problems – many women experienced breast implant illness eye issues such as blurry vision or serious eye inflammation.
- Dry mouth/dry eyes.
- Weakened immune system – easily catch common illnesses such as flu or cold, achy muscles, prolonged healing time for superficial wounds, sudden food allergies and intolerance, dizziness, and migraines.
- Mental health issues – mental health issues can be caused by lack of sleep, hormone imbalances, and continually feeling weak and sick can cause anxiety, depression, and mood swings.
- Autoimmune disorders – Crohn’s disease, rheumatoid arthritis, ulcerative colitis, lupus, Grave’s disease, Hashimoto’s thyroiditis, multiple sclerosis, etc.
Diagnosing Breast Implant Illness
There are no specific breast implant illness tests or diagnostic protocols for identifying BII. Cosmetic surgeons who have treated a number of patients with BII say these patients usually have numerous symptoms and they have issues functioning. Most of them have tried doctor after doctor trying to figure out what is going on before they discover they have BII.
Robert Whitfield, MD, FACS is the former president of the Aesthetic Surgery Education and Research Foundation and a plastic surgeon in Austin, Tx. Dr. Whitfield treats many patients that have BII disease and shared “Usually, my clients with BII find me after exhausting all other medical avenues and going through exhaustive medical testing,”
He also said that patients can have both BII and an autoimmune condition.
Social Media Has Been Instrumental In Highlighting BII
Women sharing with their peers has been bringing the existence of breast implant illness and its symptoms into the light.
One woman had her implants for about six years before she began to experience problems. She was unable to get out of bed, could not work, and slept all the time. She also developed several allergies to multiple things, creams, soaps, body wash, anything she would eat, etc. She felt like she was dying.
She went to multiple doctors who she felt did not take her seriously and ultimately provided no help. Then she found a woman on Instagram who was talking about the symptoms of BII and she discovered she was exhibiting the same signs of breast implant problems. She had her implants removed and she said she began improving right away.
Her story is very similar to most women who experience BII, their symptoms disappear once their implants are removed.
Social media and women sharing their stories have helped to start a push to learn more about BII. New research is being developed and funded by the Aesthetic Surgery
Education and Research Foundation and The American Society of Plastic Surgeons.
Wondering If You Have BII?
Breast Implant Illness symptoms can be different and random; therefore, they may not fit into a category and may be misdiagnosed. Breast implant illness is poorly understood and there has been little research done, and no studies or numbers are available regarding how many women have experienced the illness.
If you currently have breast implants and feel you may have symptoms of breast implant illness, do not hesitate to contact Surigacare Arts & Aesthetics for a consultation to discuss your concerns.
When considering breast implants, you should speak with your surgeon about your own and your family’s medical history. And of course, you should pick the most experienced, board-certified cosmetic surgeon like Dr. Angelina Postoev to complete your procedure.
Angelina Postoev, MD, FACS, a triple-board certified cosmetic surgeon, and Christopher Ibikunle, MD, FACS, offer breast augmentation for women in Lawrenceville, Suwanee, Johns Creek, Buckhead, and the surrounding areas of Atlanta, Georgia.