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Breast Implant Illness | What is BII ? 

In recent years, a growing conversation has emerged around a condition known as Breast Implant Illness (BII), or Systemic Symptoms Associated with Breast Implants, casting light on the experiences of numerous individuals who have undergone breast augmentation or reconstruction. BII encompasses a wide array of symptoms reported by some patients following the insertion of breast implants, ranging from chronic fatigue, joint and muscle pain, to cognitive disturbances and more. 

Despite its increasing recognition among patients and some healthcare professionals, the medical community continues to debate its classification, causes, and the best approaches for diagnosis and treatment. Thankfully there is recent research that has answered many questions around BII and allows us to guide treatment with data. This article delves into the heart of BII, exploring what is currently understood about this condition. 

What is Breast Implant Illness?

Breast Implant Illness (BII) refers to a broad range of symptoms and illnesses reported by some individuals after they have undergone breast implant surgery, either for cosmetic reasons or as part of breast reconstruction. The condition has garnered significant attention from patients, researchers, and some healthcare providers. It is a diagnosis of exclusion, meaning all other causes of symptoms need to be ruled out prior to diagnosing it.

The symptoms associated with BII are varied and can affect multiple systems in the body. Commonly reported symptoms include fatigue, joint and muscle pain, memory and concentration problems, breathing difficulties, sleep disturbances, skin rashes, and digestive issues. Some individuals also report experiencing autoimmune-like symptoms, though the link between breast implants and autoimmune diseases has been well studied and no correlation found. 

The exact cause of BII remains unclear, and there is no specific test to diagnose the condition. Studies have looked into inflammatory markers, heavy metals, bacteria and other potential causes or correlations to diagnose breast implant illness, but no correlation has been found at this time. It is believed that in some individuals, the body may react to the implants in ways that lead to systemic symptoms. Factors such as the type of implants (silicone or saline), the presence of any leaks or ruptures, and individual genetic predispositions may play roles in the development of BII, though again no correlation with any of these factors has been found to be associated with BII. Awareness among breast implant patients and healthcare providers is crucial for early detection and management of associated symptoms.

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What Are the Symptoms of Breast Implant Illness?

There is a wide range of symptoms related to the potential complications of breast implant surgery. Breast implant illness can cause fatigue, pain, confusion, and skin rashes. If you have implants and are experiencing any of the following, it is recommended that you see a healthcare professional or speak to your plastic surgeon:

  • Breast pain: Persistent discomfort or tenderness in the breasts, often unrelated to menstruation or injury, indicating a potential reaction to breast implants.
  • Chronic pain: Long-lasting and recurring pain, affecting various parts of the body including muscle pain, joint pain, and breast tissue, suggesting systemic involvement beyond localized symptoms.
  • Unexplained symptoms: Manifestations common in autoimmune diseases such as fatigue, cognitive issues, memory loss, and inflammatory syndromes without an apparent cause, signaling a potential link to breast implant-related reactions. 
  • Skin abnormalities: Irregularities such as rashes, itching, or changes in texture and color of the skin surrounding the breast implants, possibly indicative of an immune response or inflammatory reaction.

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How Many People Suffer from Breast Implant Illness?

The prevalence of Breast Implant Illness remains uncertain due to varied reporting and lack of official diagnosis criteria. Estimates suggest a subset of individuals with breast implants may experience symptoms suggestive of BII, including immune reactions. Risk factors such as the type of breast implant and individual health play a role.

Despite ongoing debates on breast implant safety, the vast majority of women with breast implants do not develop complications. Monitoring post-breast plastic surgery is crucial to identify potential adverse effects and ensure patient well-being, emphasizing the need for continued research into the safety of breast implants and the prevalence of BII among individuals with breast implants.

Medical Debate Surrounding Breast Implant Illness

The medical debate surrounding BII stems from the absence of official diagnostic criteria, making it challenging to conclusively identify. While common symptoms like fatigue and joint pain are reported, establishing a causal link between breast implants and systemic symptoms remains elusive. Scientific evidence supporting this connection is inconclusive, complicating diagnosis.

Diagnostic tests to confirm BII are lacking, further confounding medical professionals. Data now confirms that most patients who have BII do get relief of most if not all symptoms with the removal of breast implants. We also now have extensive research demonstrating that removing the capsule around the implant, if healthy appearing, is not necessary for improvement or resolution of symptoms. It is also important to note that removing the capsule in one intact piece, total intact capsulectomy, commonly known as “en block capsulectomy,” is not necessary for symptom improvement or resolution. It is important to see a board certified plastic surgeon who is well versed in the most current data around breast implant illness when seeking treatment for the condition. Understanding the potential risks of complications from breast implants is vital for informed decision-making in breast plastic surgery.

How to Treat Breast Implant Illness

Treating Breast Implant Illness involves several approaches aimed at alleviating symptoms and addressing underlying issues:

  • Breast Implant Removal: Complete removal of breast implants is often the primary intervention to mitigate BII symptoms. This involves explant surgery, where the devices are removed entirely.
  • Capsulectomy: In cases where the body forms thickened or diseased scar tissue around the implants (capsules), removing the capsule along with the implants may be necessary.
  • Monitoring Symptoms After Removal: Monitoring symptoms post-implant removal is essential to assess improvement and address any lingering issues, which may require additional medical intervention.

Overall, treatment strategies for BII focus on removing the source of potential reaction by removing the implants and, if necessary, the surrounding capsules, while also considering options for reconstructive surgery if desired by the patient.

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How To Prevent Breast Implant Illness

The best way to prevent developing breast implant illness symptoms is to consult with a board-certified plastic surgeon such as Dr Culver. Working with a qualified board-certified plastic surgeon can ensure you understand all risks of contracting breast implant illness and also get appropriate treatment if you do develop systemic symptoms associated with breast implants. Here are the benefits of choosing an experienced surgeon:

  1. Expertise in Surgical Techniques: Board-certified plastic surgeons undergo rigorous training and adhere to high standards of practice, ensuring precise surgical techniques during breast augmentation procedures. Their expertise minimizes the likelihood of complications that could contribute to BII.
  2. Selection of Safe Implants: Plastic surgeons are knowledgeable about the different types of breast implants available and can guide patients in choosing the most appropriate option based on their individual needs and health factors. They prioritize implants with a proven safety profile, reducing the risk of adverse reactions.
  3. Patient Education: Board-certified plastic surgeons thoroughly educate patients about the potential risks and benefits of breast augmentation surgery, including the possibility of BII. They provide detailed information about symptoms to watch for and emphasize the importance of regular follow-up appointments for monitoring.
  4. Customized Treatment Plans: Plastic surgeons develop personalized treatment plans tailored to each patient’s anatomy, preferences, and medical history. By considering these factors, they can minimize the risk of complications and optimize outcomes, reducing the likelihood of BII development.
  5. Postoperative Care: Board-certified plastic surgeons provide comprehensive postoperative care to monitor patients for any signs of BII or other complications. Prompt identification and management of issues contribute to better outcomes and patient satisfaction.

As nobody knows the exact cause of BII, consulting with a board-certified plastic surgeon ensures that patients receive expert guidance throughout the entire process, from preoperative evaluation to postoperative care, significantly reducing the risk of experiencing Breast Implant Illness.

Trust a Female Board-Certified Plastic Surgeon With Your Cosmetic Surgery 

Dr. Abby Culver offers a comprehensive range of plastic surgery services aimed at enhancing patients’ aesthetic appearance and boosting their confidence. Specializing in aesthetic procedures, Dr. Culver provides personalized treatment plans tailored to each individual’s unique needs and goals.

Her services include breast augmentation, facelifts,mommy makeover, and more. With a focus on safety, innovation, and patient satisfaction, Dr. Culver utilizes advanced surgical techniques and state-of-the-art technology to achieve natural-looking results. Patients can trust Dr. Culver’s expertise and compassionate approach to achieve their desired aesthetic outcomes!

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