What Are the Symptoms of Breast Implant Illness?

Medically Reviewed on 10/22/2021
breast implant illness
Many women report that breast implants cause the following symptoms of breast implant illness.

Breast implant illness (BII), also called autoimmune or inflammatory syndrome induced by adjuvants (ASIA), refers to the various symptoms women may experience after receiving plastic surgery for breast implants. According to research, the symptoms of BII are similar to those of fibromyalgia, a vague autoimmune disorder that causes widespread muscle tenderness and pain.

BII can occur with any type of breast implant, including:

  • silicone gel-filled,
  • saline-filled,
  • smooth,
  • textured,
  • round, or
  • teardrop-shaped implants.

Symptoms can appear at any time after the plastic surgery, with some people experiencing them immediately and others not experiencing them for years.

Symptoms are frequently linked to autoimmune diseases and connective tissue disorders. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) says it lacks conclusive evidence that breast implants cause the symptoms that many women have reported.

Table. Common symptoms of breast implant illness
System Possible symptoms
General
  • Fatigue or chronic fatigue
  • Hair loss
  • Dry skin
  • Breast pain
  • Premature aging
  • Slow healing of cuts and scrapes
  • Easy bruising
  • Skin rashes
  • Anxiety, depression, and panic attacks
Breast
  • Pain and or burning sensation around the implant and underarm
Endocrine
  • Weight changes
  • Hormonal imbalances, such as low or high levels of thyroid or adrenal hormones
  • Estrogen or progesterone imbalance or diminishing hormones
Neurological
  • Cognitive dysfunction (brain fog, difficulty concentrating, memory loss)
  • Poor sleep and insomnia
  • Dry eyes, vision disturbances
  • Vertigo
  • Ear ringing
  • Headaches, migraines, and ocular migraines
  • Numbness or tingling sensations in upper and lower limbs
Immune system
  • Fevers, night sweats, intolerant to heat or cold
  • New and persistent bacterial, fungal and viral infections
  • Delayed wound healing
  • Allergies
  • Swollen and tender lymph nodes in the breast area, underarm, throat, neck, groin
  • Diagnosis of autoimmune disorders
Cardiac
  • Heart palpitations
  • General chest discomfort
  • Shortness of breath
Gastrointestinal
  • Difficulty swallowing
  • Reflux, metallic tastes
  • Diagnosis of irritable bowel syndrome, acid reflux, gastrointestinal reflux disease, gastritis, and pancreatitis
  • Sudden food intolerance
  • Bouts of dehydration
  • Liver dysfunction
  • Gallbladder problems
  • Leaky gut
Musculoskeletal
  • Muscle pain and weakness, joint pain
  • Inflammation
  • Slow muscle recovery after activity
  • Sore and aching joints of the shoulders, hips, backbone, hands, and feet
  • Cramping
  • Symptoms or diagnosis of fibromyalgia
Urogenital
  • Low libido
  • Frequent urination
  • Kidney dysfunction
Others
  • Photosensitivity
  • Unusual body odor
  • Nausea or vomiting
  • Weight fluctuation
  • Altered menstrual cycle
  • Cough
  • Cold and discolored limbs, hands, and feet

Furthermore, while no research evidence points to implants causing breast cancer, breast augmentation has the potential to delay the diagnosis of breast cancer.

What is breast implant illness (BII)?

Breast implant illness (BII) refers to a set of symptoms that a patient believes are caused by their breast implants. BII has no consistent symptoms or a known cause. However, every surgery comes with the risk of infection, including breast augmentation.

Although unproven, one theory behind BII is that the silicone implant (both the filling and the shell of the implant) triggers an autoimmune response, causing patients to exhibit symptoms. There is no known pathophysiological explanation for the numerous patient complaints and no specific diagnostic test.

BII is not the same as breast implant associated anaplastic large cell lymphoma, which is a specific, extremely rare, and treatable cancer linked to breast implants.

What are the treatment options for breast implant illness (BII)?

Treatment will be based on symptoms and a physical exam, but it will also address the patient's preferences and expectations. If the symptoms are mild, the doctor may suggest a watchful waiting to monitor the development of any severe symptoms.

Breast implant illness (BII) treatment options may include:

  • Total capsulectomy can be used to revise implants. Patients may refuse to have their implants removed and instead choose to remove what may be the offending agent, the capsule, and replace them with new implants.
  • Completely remove the implants. This may be followed by placing a new implant.
  • Mastopexy. This entails either breast lifting, fat grafting, or both. This can be done concurrently with breast implant removal or at a later time.

Several studies have shown that removing implants and performing a capsulectomy significantly reduces symptoms. These studies have shown both immediate and long-term improvement in a variety of common symptoms.

It is critical to consult your doctor if experiencing symptoms that you believe are related to plastic surgery implants. However, these symptoms could be caused by other pathologies (autoimmune, inflammatory, or neurological diseases), so appropriate medical tests must be performed.

If seeking implant removal, then you should talk to the plastic surgeon about it. These surgeries can sometimes result in scar tissue or serious tissue damage.

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Medically Reviewed on 10/22/2021
References
Breastcancer.org. What Is Breast Implant Illness? https://www.breastcancer.org/treatment/surgery/reconstruction/types/implants/special-report/breast-implant-illness

Kaplan J, Rohrich R. Breast implant illness: a topic in review. Gland Surg. 2021 Jan;10(1):430-443. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/33634001/

Harvard Health Publishing. Could your breast implants be making you sick? https://www.health.harvard.edu/womens-health/could-your-breast-implants-be-making-you-sick