It can be heartbreaking to realize that something that has given you so much confidence and happiness may also be making you sick. At the time, your breast augmentation was probably one of the best decisions you’ve ever made, but if you’ve lived with symptoms ever since, you might be looking back at it with bittersweet feelings. If you suspect you might have Breast Implant Illness, you probably have more questions than answers, and while there’s still a lot of mystery surrounding it, there are some things we do know.
How Common is Breast Implant Illness?
Breast Implant Illness (BII), while not yet completely defined, is a term used to refer to a wide range of symptoms that some patients experience after undergoing breast augmentation with implants. Currently the rate of BII is around 1 in 2,000 to 1 in 86,000, depending on the type of implant and who makes it.
What Are Breast Implant Illness Symptoms?
Because BII is still not fully understood, the information we have is mostly based on self-reporting from patients, and there seems to be some commonality among those experiencing symptoms. Some of the symptoms commonly reported include:
- Chronic fatigue and headaches
- Persistent joint and muscle pain
- Unexplained respiratory difficulties
- Hair loss and frequent skin rashes
- Chronically dry mouth and eyes
- Poor memory and concentration
- Depression, anxiety, and insomnia
What causes Breast Implant Illness?
BII is still somewhat of a mystery; it’s thought to be a systemic inflammatory reaction or a rare autoimmune reaction to breast implants or the scar tissue surrounding the implants, but while some who experience BII also get diagnosed with a specific autoimmune or connective tissue disorder, many don’t. Some believe it’s due to breast implant contamination (which is why it’s so important to initially choose a board certified plastic surgeon for your breast augmentation surgery). Others believe some women may be genetically predisposed to developing an immune reaction to the materials used in breast implants.
What is the Treatment for Breast Implant Illness?
With the information we currently have, the most effective BII treatment is breast implant removal. Specifically, one that removed the implants and the surrounding scar tissue. An en bloc capsulectomy, a particularly effective BII treatment, is a type of breast implant removal surgery, or explant surgery, to remove both the breast implant and the scar tissue capsule all together, without opening the capsule, ensuring that nothing within it leaks into the surrounding area.
Because BII is not entirely understood, and because the breast implant illness symptoms list we mentioned above are very broad, it’s entirely possible they may or may not be caused by your implants. It’s important to discuss these symptoms with both your plastic surgeon and your primary care physician to rule out any other conditions.
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