What Is Breast Implant Illness?
Dr. Ashley Margeson
Breast Implant Illness is a term that some women and medical practitioners use to refer to a wide range of symptoms that can develop after undergoing reconstruction or cosmetic augmentation with breast implants. It can also be referred to as autoimmune/inflammatory syndrome induced by adjuvants (ASIA). The impacts can vary depending on the individual, but many symptoms are associated with autoimmune and connective tissue disorders, such as lupus, rheumatoid arthritis and scleroderma. In many cases, surgery to remove the breast implants improves or complete resolves the symptoms of breast implant illness.
Breast implant illness is not currently recognized as an official medical diagnosis. One of the reasons of this is that it is a cluster of symptoms that don’t fit another classic disease diagnosis.
Symptoms of breast implant illness can include joint and muscle pain, chronic fatigue, memory and concentration problems, breathing problems, sleep disturbance, rashes and skin problems, dry mouth and dry eyes, anxiety, depression, headaches, hair loss and gastrointestinal problems.
What should you do if you think you might be experiencing breast implant illness? Talk to your doctor about how your symptoms have changed since having your breast implants. An examination of your implants may be indicated to ensure that there is nothing physically wrong with the implants and that they are intact. Many symptoms associated with breast implant illness can also be the result of thyroid problems, so it’s important to have this tested.
You should know that every woman has the right to have her implants taken out. This is a discussion you should have with your surgeon if other causes of how you’re feeling have been ruled out, or you’re not seeing the changes you want to see.
A December 2018 research paper looked at just this thing. The paper demonstrated an association between silicone-based implants and the presence of autoimmune/rheumatic disorders. And, when they dug deeper they found that although the conclusion was made that the current evidence for an association between silicone-based implants and connective tissue disease is insufficient; there have been are hundreds of cases of connective tissues diseases and autoimmune reactions following silicone-gel breast implantations reported.
And while we’re still waiting for the evidence to become stronger, there’s one thing to be said for sure. If you have silicon-based implants and you’re feeling a number of these symptoms without an explanation as to why; you might want to talk about this option with your medical provider.
Cohen Tervaert JW, Colaris MJ, van der Hulst RR. Silicone breast implants and autoimmune rheumatic diseases: myth or reality. Curr Opin Rheumatol 2017;29:348–54.
Colaris MJL, de Boer M, van der Hulst RR, Cohen Tervaert JW. Two hundred cases of ASIA syndrome following silicone implants: a comparative study of 30 years and a review of current literature. Immunol Res 2017;65:120–28.
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