Breast Implant Illness

Breast implant illness (BII) is a term used to describe a range of symptoms believed to be caused by breast implants. Although the illness is rare and often challenging to diagnose, it is important that women with implants be aware of it.

As an experienced breast augmentation surgeon in the Dallas-Fort Worth, and Plano area, Dr. Raja Mohan is dedicated to shining a light on this rare, but serious condition. Let’s take a closer look at breast implant illness and what you should know about it to keep yourself safe and healthy.

Table Of Contents

What Is Breast Implant Illness?

Breast implant illness (BII) is a medical condition that is sometimes diagnosed when a woman with implants presents with unexplained symptoms such as hair loss, fatigue, and skin rashes. Other symptoms such as joint pain, general inflammation, and brain fog are also common.

Unfortunately, not much is known about breast implant illness. It has a specific name, however, because there is persistent evidence that many women with implants do develop severe symptoms after augmentation surgery, and these symptoms often abate after the implants are removed.

What Causes Breast Implant Illness?

No one knows for sure what causes breast implant illness. Naturally, the presence of the implants themselves is a precursor for the illness. However, beyond that, little is known. The condition is not an “officially recognized” medical illness and is not generally well understood.

Is Breast Implant Illness Common?

According to current breast implant illness statistics, the risk of overall complications related to breast implants is around 1%. It’s important to note that this includes all issues such as changes in sensation, soreness, and the formation of scar tissue. This means that the likelihood of contracting breast implant illness after undergoing breast augmentation with implants is less than 1%.

Symptoms of Breast Implant Illness

Individuals who think they may have breast implant illness symptoms should consult their doctor.

Unfortunately, there are a range of symptoms associated with BII, but many of them are also associated with other serious conditions, such as Lyme disease or arthritis. Therefore, it’s important to collect a comprehensive list of what’s ailing you so that other possible medical issues can be ruled out before considering BII.

If you have been experiencing health problems and think BII could be the cause, be on the lookout for these breast implant illness symptoms:

Breast Implant Illness Symptoms List

  • Hair loss
  • Muscle pain
  • Joint pain
  • Skin rashes
  • Unexplained swelling and visible inflammation
  • Muscle weakness
  • Low vision
  • Chronic dry eyes
  • Dry mouth
  • Headaches
  • Generalized pain or body aches
  • Weight fluctuations
  • Gastrointestinal issues
  • Nipple discharge
  • Breast rashes or redness
  • Breast soreness or pain
  • Hormonal imbalances
  • General fatigue and a lack of energy
  • Changes in sleep
  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Memory issues
  • Brain fog
  • Anxiety
  • Depression

Who Is Most at Risk?

Because of the indeterminate nature of breast implant illness, it’s difficult to pinpoint what populations are most at risk. Surely, the illness only seems to affect those with breast implants. That is, similar symptoms do not appear to be common with other types of prostheses.

On the other hand, researchers and scientists have presented some information that may associate BII with autoimmune disease. That is, there may be a relationship betweens patients who have autoimmune illnesses and BII. Patients who have BII symptoms are often sufferers of an autoimmune disorder or they are eventually diagnosed with one.

To be sure, many of the symptoms related to breast implant illness are also linked with conditions such as rheumatoid arthritis, Lyme disease, and lupus — all autoimmune disorders or autoimmune responses.

How Do You Test for Breast Implant Illness?

Unfortunately, breast implant illness can be extremely difficult to diagnose because there is no breast implant illness test. Doctors can take blood tests to rule out other issues, but there is not a blood test specifically designed to diagnose BII. Rather, your doctors will assess your condition based on your symptoms.

Essentially, breast implant illness tends to be determined based on a diagnosis of exclusion. This means that, because doctors can’t look for specific symptoms that will definitely indicate breast implant illness, they must, instead, rule out other possible conditions. When no other possible conditions are likely, but the patient still presents with chronic and serious symptoms that may be related to breast implant illness, breast implant illness is usually diagnosed.

Breast Implant Illness Treatments & Solutions

The most common way to treat breast implant illness is with breast implant removal — also known as breast explant surgery. Once the implants have been entirely removed, not all, but most patients report significant improvement (if not entire abatement) of their symptoms.

What Happens During Breast Explant Surgery?

Breast explant surgery is the surgical removal of breast implants. Some patients undergo this procedure simply because they no longer desire implants. Others undergo the surgery as a result of implant rupture or because of breast implant illness-related symptoms.

During breast implant removal surgery, you will first be given anesthesia. Next, your surgeon will generally create an incision either beneath the breast in the inframammary fold or around the areola (where the darker skin of the areola meets the rest of your skin). Typically, the initial incision that was made during your augmentation surgery is reused.

Each implant will then be carefully removed. Depending on the nature of the scar tissue that formed as a result of your implant, the “pocket” of scar tissue (often called the breast capsule) may or may not be removed along with the implant.

Lastly, your incisions will be closed, and you will be sent to a postoperative care room to recover. Most patients are able to return home on the same day as their surgery.

What Will I Look Like After Breast Implant Removal Surgery?

Every woman’s results will be different after breast implant removal. Much of your result will have to do with your unique anatomy, age, and skin elasticity. How long you had your implants in will also play a large role in your surgical outcome.

More specifically, older women who have had their implants in for a number of years may not regain as much of a youthful “bounce” after surgery as younger women with greater skin elasticity may. For this reason, and because many women still desire a youthful appearance to their breasts, it is sometimes an option to undergo a breast lift at the same time as breast explant surgery.

Should I Get a Breast Lift With Explant Surgery?

Whether or not you decide to undergo a breast lift along with your breast implant removal is up to you. Discuss your options with your surgeon. He or she will tell you what you can expect your breasts to look like after surgery based on the factors discussed above (age, anatomy, skin elasticity, time with implants etc.).

If you are concerned about the appearance of your breasts without implants and your surgeon does not have concerns about performing a breast explant with lift surgery, this may be an option to consider.

When Should I See a Doctor?

Any woman who has implants and is experiencing what could be breast implant illness symptoms should see her doctor. In addition to seeing your primary physician, it’s also a good idea to meet with the surgeon who performed your breast augmentation surgery, when possible. Some patients may choose to see a different plastic surgeon in Dallas, however.

Dr. Mohan has met with patients who are concerned with possible breast implant illness symptoms. In some cases, after discussing the patient’s condition, he has removed their implants upon their request. Dr. Mohan estimates that in around 50% of such cases, symptoms have generally abated after implant removal.

FAQ: Breast Implant Illness

Can you prevent breast implant illness?
Because doctors and medical researchers don’t know exactly what causes breast implant illness, the only sure way to prevent this illness is to not get implants. Of course, if you already have implants, be sure to monitor any symptoms, and don’t hesitate to speak to your doctor if you are concerned.
When does breast implant illness begin?
There is no strict timeline with breast implant illness. It may begin right away after the implants are put in or years down the line.
Is breast implant illness reversible?
The only known way to “reverse” breast implant illness is to remove the implants. This appears to resolve — or, at least, improve — symptoms in most cases.
Should I get my breast implants removed?
If you have symptoms in line with breast implant illness symptoms, you should definitely speak to your plastic surgeon and primary physician about what could be causing the symptoms. When all other medical conditions and possibilities are ruled out, breast implant illness may be the source of your sickness, and this may mean that getting your breast implants removed is a good idea.
Is breast implant removal painful?
Breast implant removal, also known as explant surgery, is similar to breast augmentation surgery. You will have some swelling, bruising, and soreness after surgery. You may also be slightly stiff and sore. With time, these symptoms will improve until you return to normal mobility and all swelling disappears.

References

https://my.clevelandclinic.org/health/diseases/23366-breast-implant-illness
https://www.breastcancer.org/treatment/surgery/breast-reconstruction/types/implant-reconstruction/illness/breast-implant-illness
https://my.clevelandclinic.org/health/treatments/21799-breast-implant-removal
https://utswmed.org/medblog/breast-implant-illness/

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