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Breast Implant Illness: Symptoms, Causes & Treatment

Breast Implant Illness
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Who doesn’t want to be perfect? Thanks to ads, reality TV shows and magazines, the thirst for the perfect body has never been so high. In fact, according to the American Society of Plastic Surgeons, more than 1.8 million people had cosmetic surgery in 2018 (x). Though breast implants may drastically improve the body’s figure and change one’s life for the better, many have reported signs of breast implant illness after getting them. If you’re considering breast implants, you should closely read the following statement from the FDA (x):

“Breast implants are not lifetime devices. The longer you have breast implants, the more likely it is that complications will occur and you will need to have them removed.

What Is Breast Implant Illness?

Medical professionals have given the term “breast implant illness” to the uncomfortable and often unsightly side effects some women have experienced after getting breast implants. Symptoms have included muscle weakness, allergic reactions, swelling, inflammation and various aches and pains throughout the body. In fact, some have actually pointed to silicone,
a synthetic material found in medical devices, as the main problem.

Cause of Breast Implant Illness

In the early days, studies showed no clear evidence of the link between silicone breast implants and chronic diseases. However, clear evidence from new studies is starting to point toward the opposite — that silicone at least causes an immune response in the body. In other words, the body doesn’t like it.

In 2008, the journal Clinical Rheumatology published a study showing that “silicone materials” in the body did, in fact, produce an immune response around the silicone itself. Levels of antisilicone antibodies and nonspecific immunoglobulins (proteins functioning as antibodies), especially IgE, were higher in research subjects with silicone in their bodies than in those without (x).

Types of Breast Implants

There are two types of breast implants — silicone and saline filled (x).

Silicone Breast Implants

These comprise silicone shells and a silicone gel. Studies such as the one referenced above have suggested these may cause some of the symptoms women with breast implant illness have described. According to the American Society of Plastic Surgeons, FDA regulations stipulate that women must be 22 or older to get them (x).

Saline-Filled Breast Implants

These comprise silicone shells and a salt-water solution. The American Society of Plastic Surgeons states that these are available only to women over 18, but have the advantage of being postoperatively adjustable (x).

Symptoms of Breast Implant Illness

Breast Pain

Breast implants may cause constant pain in the chest or breasts themselves. This pain may be constant and long-term, affecting a patient’s normal routine.

Capsular Contracture

Foreign objects in the body, such as breast implants, usually cause reactions from the body itself, which will isolate these objects with barriers of scar tissue. In some patients, this scar tissue will squeeze implants to a point where they start to deform. This can cause pain in some cases.

Swelling

Swelling, pain and redness around the implant can develop after surgery, even after many years.

Fluid Collection

After some time, fluid may start to build up around implants, leading to serious complications if left untreated — bacteria can start to grow in this fluid.

Skin Necrosis

Dead skin can form around breast implants. Chemotherapy, steroids, infection and radiation can help it form.

Below are other common signs of breast implant illness:

  • Fatigue
  • Fever
  • Change in breast color or shape
  • Dry eyes
  • Dry mouth
  • Cognitive impairment
  • Thinning of the breast tissue
  • Slow wound healing
  • Nipple discharge
  • Bleeding
  • Blood clots

Dangers Associated with Breast Implants

Breast Implant Rupture

Saline-filled implants can rupture, leaking salt-water solution, which the body absorbs. Bacteria can grow in salt-water solution, causing other serious problems.

A change in breast shape and pain in and around the breast are the first signs of an implant rupture. If you have implants and notice these signs, talk to your doctor right away to get an MRI for diagnosis and treatment (x).

Increased Cancer Risk

Studies have suggested that women with breast implants have an increased risk of leukemia and cancers of the vulva, brain and stomach. Breast implants can stimulate the immune system to fight silicone in the body, which can cause an inflammatory response (x).

Connective Tissue Disease

In 2001, the Journal of Rheumatology published a study that showed women who had experienced implant ruptures were likely to develop fibromyalgia from silicone leaking into scar tissue surrounding their ruptured implants (x).

Calcium Deposit Formation

Breast implants can form hard lumps of calcium around the breast, which can be easily mistaken for cancer during mammograms (x).

Seroma Formation and Infection

Fluid buildup around implants may lead to pain, swelling, bruising and seromas (pockets of clear fluid). If not treated right away, seromas may require surgical draining. Bacteria and fungi in surgical wounds can cause infection. If antifungal and antibiotic medications fail, surgeons will need to remove implants in or adjacent to infected tissue (x).

Additional Surgeries

Breast implants aren’t permanent and need to be replaced every 10 years or so. Replacements are expensive and painful.

Breast Implant Illness Symptoms


Treatments for Breast Implant Illness

Treating breast implant illness depends solely on symptoms, and making the right diagnosis depends on doctor and patient. Doctors give antibiotics to treat infections, but in severe cases when antibiotic medications fail, surgery is needed to remove implants in and adjacent to infected tissue. Patients with serious autoimmune disorders are more likely to need additional surgeries to remove implants to relieve pain and other symptoms.

Explant

An explant is the surgical removal of an implant, needed in many cases to alleviate complications from breast implant illness. The body will need at least a month to recover from an explant (x).

How to Prevent Breast Implant Illness

Although getting breast implants has its risks, many still get them, and many doctors and surgeons consider them safe. If you’re thinking about getting them, make sure you consider all associated risks to avoid infection and any autoimmune complications, as well as any of the other risks we’ve looked at in this article.

Keep a close eye on your breasts after your procedure, and also make sure to follow your surgeon’s instructions. Book an appointment with your doctor right away if you see or feel changes in your breasts. Below are some ways to help prevent the onset of breast implant illness:

Keep Your Gut Healthy

Some women have had toxicity issues from breast implants, likely from poor digestion or bowel problems such as leaky gut or inflammation. To avoid complications from infection, keep your gut as healthy as possible. Try cutting foods that contribute to inflammation and allergies out of your diet — foods that contain dairy, gluten or grains (x).

Supplements to Treat Breast Implant Illness

Some breast implants may contain metals dangerous to the human body (x). To detoxify, you may want to try any of the following supplements:

Glutathione Reduced Powder

A natural molecule produced in the body for the purpose of detoxification, glutathione is responsible for helping the body cleanse itself of toxins, metals and free radicals (x).

It is made up of the amino acids glycine, glutamine and cysteine. If you want to detox your body after getting breast implants, you may want to try a glutathione supplement. Take small amounts at first, and slowly increase your dose.

Vitamin D

Vitamin D plays a vital role in the body’s immune system, and one study, published in Clinical Rheumatology, found that some women with silicone breast implants were vitamin D deficient (x). You may want to supplement vitamin D to help support your body’s immune system during and after implantation.

Other supplements you may want to consider taking include:

The Bottom Line

Medical professionals give the term breast implant illness to a number of symptoms and complications some women experience after getting breast implants. Common symptoms include pains and aches in various parts of the body, fatigue and redness or swelling around implants. Medical professionals often attribute the presence of silicone in the body to breast implant illness.

Breast implants may be tempting, but they don’t come without risks. Some medical professionals have even associated breast implants with cancer. In severe cases — to combat infection, for example — patients will need explants to remove their implants. Detofixying the body with supplements may be an ideal way to combat breast implant illness.

About the author

Mahnum Shakoor


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