You may have heard of Breast Implant Illness (BII), a description for women who have breast implants and has been experiencing illness symptoms that may be caused by silicone or saline implants.
Implants have been used by millions of women worldwide for more than 30 years with minimal knowledge of what problems they may be causing women. It is not clear what could be making women sick, but many of them noticed their health improved after the removal of their implants. Breast implant illness has not been diagnosed as an official medical condition and studies are ongoing.
Breast Implant Illness or BII, is a term used to describe women with breast implants that may be creating symptoms including brain fog, chest pain, chronic pain, fatigue, hair loss, headaches, hormonal or neurologic issues, photosensitivity, rashes, and sleep disturbance.
They may be factors that could be connected to a saline or silicone breast implant. Some metals are used in the manufacturing process for saline (Allergan, Mentor, and Ideal) and for silicone (Allergan, Mentor, and Sientra) as approved for breast implants by the FDA. "Breast implant illness is a consolation symptom from fatigue to joint pain to brain fog to just not feeling well," said Dr. Ritu Chopra. "I have patients coming into my office saying, 'doc, I feel like I'm going to die.' It's that severe." Breast implant illness has not been formally recognized as an illness with no diagnostic testing yet. However, there are some tests for autoimmune diseases that can be done to help evaluate a patient and the cause of her symptoms.
"Just because it is not an illness, and we don't have a test for it, it doesn't mean that it's not a problem," said Dr. Chopra. "In my opinion, if you have autoimmunity, you should stay away from all types of implants period because I think that can stimulate your immune system to rev up and then cause these very problems." "This is totally anecdotal, so the hundreds of women that I have done (surgery to remove implants), literally, and Drew (Dr. Ordon) has seen it first-hand too, 90% of these women are getting better (after implant removal)," said Dr. Chopra. "They may not get better the first week, they may not get better in six months, but by a year, a lot of their symptoms are completely gone."
There have been many reports of breast implant illness symptoms on social media, with some support groups on Facebook having more than 100,000 members. Members and patient advocates of two Facebook pages, Breast Implant Illness and Healing and Breast Implant Victim Advocacy, met with FDA officials in 2018 to encourage the government organization to pursue scientific studies and provide better information for women experiencing health problems related to breast implants.
Some studies suggest there may be some improvement in a patient's symptoms after the removal of their breast implants. A study published in the Netherlands Journal of Medicine in 2013 indicated that most of the symptoms disappeared in 69% of women after they had their implants taken out. More studies are needed to examine the effects and safety of breast implants and possible links between implants and illness.
Click here to watch Dr. Chopra’s appearance on The Doctors discussing what breast implant illness is.
There have been recent concerns about breast implant-associated anaplastic large cell lymphoma (BIA-ALCL), a cancer of the immune system, not of the breast. It involves the growth of lymphoma cells in or around a breast implant scar capsule and can necessitate having your breast or implant examined for fluid and/or tissue concerns. BIA-ALCL is a treatable form of lymphoma within the scar tissue around the breast implant and usually develops after several years.
One of the first signs is unexpected swelling and painful feelings of hardness in the implant. Once a breast implant has been diagnosed with BIA-ALCL, it is recommended to remove it as soon as possible.The symptoms of BIA-ALCL can be like other conditions like capsular contracture, including thickening of the scar capsule around your implant and your lymph nodes swelling up. You can check for changes in your breasts, including growth of a lump, different sensations like firmness, redness or lesion on your skin on or near your breast, breast growth or asymmetry or any unusual pain.
The FDA reports patients who believe they are experiencing breast implant illness can often find a resolution to their symptoms by having the implant removed.
Some causes could be related to the body's inflammatory reaction to a foreign object or specific components of the implants like silicone. It may also be attributed to the body's response to the way a breast implant was inserted and specific surgical techniques.
There is currently no official diagnosis for breast implant illness, but many patients with breast implants have reported the following symptoms:
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With years of experience, Dr. Ritu Chopra has achieved recognition as a plastic surgery and reconstructive surgery expert, including the removal of breast implants. He has successfully performed hundreds of breast implant removal procedures at Plastic Surgery Institute’s Beverly Hills and Rancho Mirage locations. Dr. Chopra has appeared as a plastic surgery correspondent on Emmy Award-winning daytime hit TV talk show The Doctors, to discuss Breast Implant Illness. He is also a member of several prestigious plastic surgery organizations, including the American Society of Plastic Surgeons, the American Society for Aesthetic Plastic Surgery, and the Los Angeles Society of Plastic Surgeons.
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