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Breast Implant Illness: Answers to Common Questions

Sep 21, 2021 | Breast

We hope this piece will shed some light on a particularly alarming trend that has left the medical industry collectively scratching its head, while helping you make an informed decision about your health and body goals.  

In recent years, an unsettling number of women who’ve undergone breast augmentation surgery with breast implants have requested either revision breast augmentation surgery or a complete extraction of their implants due to unbearable symptoms of Breast Implant Illness.  A once relatively unknown, scary side effect of breast implants has finally begun to gain some awareness within the medical and cosmetic surgery communities, thanks to affected women coming forward and speaking out about their sudden, inexplicable symptoms.  


Currently under extensive research to determine its exact causes and cure, Breast Implant Illness (BII) is believed to be the direct result of breast augmentation using ANY FDA-approved implant, such as silicone, gel-filled, saline-filled, smooth surfaced, textured surface, round, or tear-shaped. has classified BII symptoms as a result of wide-ranging, adverse reactions and a comprehensive, medical evaluation often reveals a correlation to a history of autoimmune disorders, such as lupus or rheumatoid arthritis.  It’s assumed women with a genetic predisposition to autoimmune disorders or those with a history of autoimmune dysfunction are likely to develop Breast Implant Illness symptoms following breast augmentation surgery, though conclusive evidence has yet to be issued.  Findings are based on anecdotal evidence.  Interestingly, an 2018 study followed 100,000 women with implants and found these women were nearly eight times more likely than the general female population to develop the rarely-known autoimmune Sjogren syndrome.  It’s also believed having an adverse reaction to silicone-based substances may play a major factor in developing BII, as silicone may “bleed” through its intact shell and into surrounding tissues.  


While the causes of BII still remain a medical mystery, lacking definitive clarification from the cosmetic surgery community, women who’ve experienced the strange disorder all seem to report one or more of the following symptoms: 

  • Joint and/or muscle pain 
  • Chronic lethargy/lack of energy 
  • Memory loss/inability to focus 
  • Breathing issues 
  • Insomnia/sleep disturbance 
  • Inexplicable skin rashes/irritations 
  • Anxiety/depression 
  • Dry mouth 
  • Headaches/migraines 
  • Hair loss 
  • GI tract complications

Symptoms can begin to occur immediately after surgery or can take years to develop, but usually begin to occur within 6 weeks following surgery.  As with any surgical outcome – favorable or otherwise – every woman is different and should be evaluated and treated independently.  Not every woman who has received breast implants will develop BII.  Just because your best friend developed BII symptoms from her breast implants, doesn’t mean you will as well.  


As stated earlier, BII is still an emerging medical phenomenon and a hot debate within cosmetic industry circles.  Some of the industry’s top surgeons and leading researchers are still trying to trace its exact origins/causes, develop a definitive cure, and offer effective approaches to treatment.  Unfortunately, there are still more questions than answers and while finding a cure for BII is still a work in progress, there are some answers available to the most common questions.

  • Will all silicone-based breast implants cause BII? No.  But, most BII cases are found to be with women who have silicone-based implants.  
  • Will BII leave my body disfigured? There have not been any reported cases of women becoming physically disfigured from BII symptoms.  Discomforting, disquieting, and disheartening?  Yes.  Disfiguring?  No.
  • Will my BII go away once I decide to have my implants removed or undergo revision surgery with new implants?  There is no guarantee BII symptoms will subside with breast implant removal (extraction) or revision surgery, however, most women who’ve experienced bouts of BII have reported a complete eradication of symptoms once implants were completely removed.  A study conducted by the American Society for Aesthetic Plastic Surgery found 89% of women who suffered from BII symptoms reported a complete improvement three months after removal, so the heal is real.  
  • Can BII cause death? There have been no reported fatalities linked specifically to BII symptoms, though death can occur if an infection is left untreated.  
  • Can BII cause cancer? clearly stipulate s breast implants nor BII are linked to the development of breast cancer.  
  • Will I be able to breastfeed while having BII or after? Women can breastfeed their children with implants, and while breastfeeding your baby while also experiencing BII symptoms will not hurt the child, it may be physically discomforting to do so.  
  • Will new implants ensure my BII won’t return? There are no guarantees of the mitigation of BII once new implants are received.  However, if your BII returns or exacerbates, it’s a clear indication you have an adverse reaction to implants and most likely will be advised to have them completely removed.  


Staying connected, seeking support through online support groups, and keeping up to date with the latest medical advancements, breakthroughs, developments, and news are the best ways to help you take decisive action about your health and body.  Not to mention, seeking the advice from your doctor. Sharing your story with other women who are also experiencing the worrisome effects of BII is a powerful way to raise awareness and keep the conversation continuing.  A community that truly encourages and invites open, candid discourse, while advocating for real solutions brings us one step closer to finding a cure. 



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