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Healing Breast Implant Illness: BII Symptoms and Treatment Options

Women all over the world have undergone breast-related surgeries, such as enlargements and breast lifts. Though usually cosmetic in nature, these procedures are not free from complications. Find out why breast implant illness (BII) is on the rise, and what you can do to protect yourself.

It’s a broad term that remains unfamiliar to many, so you may be wondering, “is breast implant illness real?” And unfortunately, the answer is yes.

Breast implant illness (BII) is used by medical professionals to describe several symptoms arising from breast implant surgery. Based on patient reports, the warning signs of BII vary greatly from one individual to the next. 

Despite the fact that silicone implants seem to be the most common choice, breast implant illness is not linked to a specific type of implant. Whether the patient opts for silicone or saline, in any shape or size, the potential for developing BII still exists. 

Note that BII is often mistakenly associated with issues of breast tenderness or infection. However, these are generally unrelated, as a lot of BII symptoms target other areas of the body, outside of the breast region.  

Some breast implant illness symptoms bear a resemblance to those of autoimmune disorders like lupus. As such, a number of experts believe that BII might be attributed to an autoimmune reaction to implants. Of course, additional scientific research is required to confirm this.

As previously mentioned, symptoms of breast implant illness run the gamut, so it’s virtually impossible to create a concrete list of BII symptoms. However, some warning signs do appear more frequently than others, and may include: 

  • Chronic headaches
  • Depression
  • Problems sleeping
  • Muscle and joint pain
  • Dry mouth
  • Rashes (anywhere on the body, not just the breasts)
  • Increased anxiety
  • Hair loss
  • Breathing issues

Given the diversity of BII symptoms, health care providers struggle to accurately diagnose breast implant illness. Furthermore, warning signs could present at any point following the procedure. Some women display breast implant illness symptoms immediately after returning home from the hospital, while others don’t observe them until years later. 

Currently, there’s no conclusive evidence to suggest that breast implant sickness, specifically BII (or the implants themselves), increases the likelihood of developing breast cancer. However, if you’re feeling concerned or notice any breast abnormalities, please see your health care provider to determine whether it’s breast cancer-related.

Although the incidence rate has increased over the years, breast implant illness is still not considered an official medical condition. Consequently, the ability of providers to diagnose BII is further hampered by the lack of a precise diagnosis code. No standard breast implant disease tests or protocols are in place, either, leading many health care professionals to look at multiple conditions before confirming BII. 

It is important to note, however, numerous symptoms of breast implant illness are tied to autoimmune disorders or connective tissue problems. That’s why experts tend to begin their search for BII by testing for autoimmune conditions with similar signs. 

But the lab results of patients reporting BII symptoms remain inconsistent. Some women experiencing breast implant illness possess an underlying autoimmune disorder, while others do not.

Even in light of the many challenges confronting BII diagnosis, breast implant illness patients have several different options for effectively alleviating their symptoms. 

Don’t hesitate to discuss breast implant illness concerns with a trusted health care provider. A full medical review should be conducted, along with a conversation on possible methods for treatment. 

The presence of autoimmune symptoms could warrant a rheumatoid assessment, complete with a physical exam and lab tests, among other things. This will search for underlying autoimmune issues, and simultaneously shed a bit of light on alternative strategies for healing breast implant illness.

Naturally, the single most effective way to eliminate BII symptoms in the long run is with surgical removal of the implants. Note that experts strongly advise against replacing the old implants with new ones. In spite of these recommendations, however, some breast implant illness patients choose to switch to a different type of implant. 

The exact surgical procedure performed is determined on a case-by-case basis. An en bloc capsulectomy is preferable, as it involves removing the implant, surrounding capsule, and scar tissue in one piece. This prevents substances within the capsule from seeping into the body and perhaps producing unwanted side effects. The downside to an en bloc capsulectomy is it’s not appropriate for everyone, and sometimes, the implant and capsule must be removed separately. 

Lastly, keep in mind that complete removal of the full breast implant is not actually possible, as it could severely damage the muscles or ribs. A small portion must be left behind to protect the patient from further complications. 

Occasionally, breast implant illness symptoms have been known to return after surgery. Certain individuals may simply be predisposed to developing breast implant illness, regardless of the type of implant used.

As with any form of surgery, whether it’s elective or a medical necessity, there’s always a chance that something might not go as planned. When considering a breast enlargement, do plenty of research and ask lots of questions before agreeing to go under the knife. Besides breast implant sickness, complications may include: 

  • Pain or infection
  • Sudden implant rupture
  • Future need for surgery
  • Breast-implant associated anaplastic large cell lymphoma (BIA-ALCL)

Thoroughly discuss the potential risks with your primary provider and plastic surgeon beforehand. Though rare, BIA-ALCL can be a life-threatening complication, so it’s crucial to know all the facts.

Ever asked yourself, “is breast implant illness real?” You’re not alone. It’s in fact a very real medical condition which frequently produces a wide array of symptoms. 

Historically, breast implant illness has been tough to diagnose, but with a growing number of cases, the medical community is now taking it much more seriously. 

If you’ve observed any warning signs of breast implant illness, please seek medical help right away. Or, if you’re thinking about undergoing breast surgery in the near future, make sure you’re fully aware of what’s at stake.

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/8565586

https://www.breastcancer.org/treatment/surgery/reconstruction/types/implants/special-report/breast-implant-illness

https://www.breastcancer.org/treatment/surgery/reconstruction/types/implants/special-report

https://www.surgery.org/sites/default/files/downloads/BII-Talking-Points-FINAL-1.15.19.pdf

https://www.health.harvard.edu/womens-health/could-your-breast-implants-be-making-you-sick

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