Breast Implant Illness: Fact or Fiction

Published on August 16, 2023
By Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery of Acadiana

Making the decision to augment your body through breast implant surgery is not one taken lightly. Though it is considered cosmetic surgery, it is still an invasive procedure. You've likely done your research, weighed the pros and cons, and chosen a reputable plastic surgeon. However, what happens if you begin to experience symptoms that seem unrelated to the surgery itself; symptoms that persist and disrupt your daily life? You could be dealing with what's known as “breast implant sickness.”

Breast implant illness (BII) is a term coined by patients who have experienced a myriad of symptoms that they believe are directly linked to their breast implants. These symptoms can range from fatigue and headaches to joint pain and hair loss. It's a controversial topic, with some medical professionals dismissing the idea, while others acknowledge its existence and potential impact on patients.

Understanding Breast Implants


Before we delve further into breast implant sickness, it's essential to understand what breast implants are and how they function. Breast implants are medical devices inserted under the breast tissue or chest muscle to increase breast size (augmentation) or restore breast volume lost due to pregnancy, weight loss, or mastectomy.

There are two types of breast implants: silicone and saline. Previous generations of silicone implants were filled with silicone gel, a thick, sticky fluid that closely mimics human fat. Modern implants are solid silicone and have very low risk of rupture. Saline implants consist of a silicone shell that contain sterile salt water. Both types have their advantages and disadvantages. The choice between the two often depends on individual preference and the recommendation of the surgeon.

Despite their widespread use, breast implants are not without risks. They can rupture or leak, cause changes in nipple or breast sensation, and lead to aesthetic complications like rippling or asymmetry. Additionally, there's the potential for more serious complications such as infection, capsular contracture (hardening of the area around the implant), and a rare type of cancer called anaplastic large cell lymphoma (ALCL).

What is Breast Implant Sickness?


Breast implant sickness refers to a wide range of symptoms that can develop after undergoing breast implant surgery. These symptoms can vary greatly from person to person but often include chronic fatigue, cognitive difficulties (like memory loss or trouble concentrating), joint and muscle pain, hair loss, dry skin and eyes, and recurring infections.

While breast implant sickness isn't officially recognized as a medical condition by all professionals in the field, many patients and some medical practitioners firmly believe in its existence. The term was coined by women who noticed these symptoms after their breast augmentation surgery, with many reporting significant improvement after the implants were removed.

It's important to note that these symptoms are often very general and can be associated with a variety of other medical conditions. This has added to the controversy surrounding breast implant sickness, as it makes it difficult to definitively link these symptoms to the implants themselves.

Causes of Breast Implant Sickness


The exact reason why some women may experience symptoms of breast implant illness and others do not is unknown. Some theories suggest it may be a reaction to the materials used in the implants, while others believe it could be an autoimmune response.

Silicone, a synthetic material used in many implants, has been the subject of much debate. Some studies suggest that silicone could trigger an immune response, leading to symptoms of breast implant sickness. On the other hand, saline implants, though thought to be safer, have also been linked to similar symptoms.

Another theory suggests that a bacterial infection around the implant could lead to chronic inflammation and subsequent symptoms. However, more research is needed in this area to understand the potential causes fully. There have been recent developments in the way that breast implants are inserted to make the procedure more sterile in hopes of reducing the risk of developing any adverse effects.

Breast Implant Sickness: Fact or Fiction


The debate over whether breast implant sickness is a legitimate medical condition is ongoing. On one side are patients who have experienced the symptoms first-hand and believe their implants are to blame. On the other side are those in the medical community who claim there is no scientific evidence to support these claims.

So, is breast implant sickness fact or fiction? The answer is complex. While it's clear that some women experience a variety of symptoms after receiving breast implants, proving a direct link between the implants and these symptoms is challenging. We advise you always advocate for yourself with your doctors as you know your body best!

Scientific Evidence on Breast Implant Sickness


Despite the controversy, several studies have been conducted to investigate the claims of breast implant sickness. While some have found a potential link, others have found no significant association between breast implants and the reported symptoms.

There have been some medical studies that have suggested a possible relationship between silicone implants and certain autoimmune conditions. A review of scientific literature by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) in 2020 supported the existence of a systemic syndrome related to breast implants and acknowledged the need for further research.

However, due to the broad and nonspecific nature of the symptoms, and lack of conclusive medical studies, proving a direct causal relationship has been challenging. It is also worth noting that the majority of women who undergo breast implant surgery do not experience these symptoms, adding another layer of complexity to the issue.


Whether breast implant sickness is fact or fiction is a heated debate within the medical community. However, the experiences of women who have suffered from these symptoms can't be ignored. While more research is needed to understand the potential link between breast implants and these symptoms, it's crucial to recognize and validate the experiences of these patients.

If you are considering breast implant surgery, it is essential to understand the potential risks and discuss any concerns with your healthcare provider. If you are experiencing symptoms that you believe may be linked to your breast implants, don't hesitate to seek medical help. Your health and well-being should always be your top priority.

For more information on breast implant surgery, contact Plastic & Reconstructive Surgery of Acadiana at our Lafayette, Louisiana office. Call (337) 504-3640 to schedule an appointment.