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Is It Breast Implant Illness? Key Symptoms You Need to Know

Breast Implant Illness Symptoms: Top 10 Warning Signs 2024

Understanding Breast Implant Illness Symptoms

Breast implant illness symptoms can be difficult to identify, but being aware of them is crucial. Here’s a quick look at some common symptoms:

Common Symptoms
– Chronic fatigue
– Joint and muscle pain
– Brain fog and memory issues
– Skin rashes
– Chronic headaches
– Dry eyes and mouth
– Gastrointestinal problems

Breast implant illness is a term used by some to describe a range of symptoms that can occur in people with breast implants. Although it isn’t formally recognized as a medical diagnosis, a growing number of women, like Jacksonville mother Julie McCarthy, have reported similar symptoms that they believe are linked to their implants.

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When considering breast implant surgery or if you’re experiencing symptoms, it’s important to be informed about breast implant illness symptoms. Understanding these symptoms can help you take action early and seek appropriate medical care.

I’m Dr. Mark Anton, and with over 33 years of experience in breast surgery, I’ve dedicated my career to helping patients understand and address complex issues related to breast implants, including breast implant illness symptoms. From my extensive work, I know how crucial it is to be informed and proactive about your health.

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Understanding Breast Implant Illness (BII)

Breast Implant Illness (BII) is a term used to describe a collection of symptoms that some people experience after getting breast implants. These symptoms can vary widely and affect different parts of the body, making BII a complex and often misunderstood condition.


Breast Implant Illness is not an official medical diagnosis. Instead, it refers to a broad range of symptoms that can occur in individuals with breast implants. The symptoms can affect anyone with any type of breast implant, whether silicone or saline. Despite the lack of formal recognition, many healthcare providers acknowledge the condition and work to help patients who are experiencing these troubling symptoms.


One of the challenges with BII is that it isn’t formally recognized as a medical condition by major health authorities like the FDA. This lack of recognition can make it difficult for patients to get a definitive diagnosis. Instead, doctors often diagnose BII by ruling out other conditions, such as arthritis or Lyme disease. This process can be frustrating for patients who feel unwell but don’t have a clear diagnosis.

Dr. Scott Ackerman, a medical director at Ackerman Cancer Center, highlights this issue: “A lot of the symptoms are pooh-poohed by medical practitioners, and women think that they’re crazy. They’re not crazy.”

Symptoms Range

The symptoms of BII can be widespread and varied, making it hard to pinpoint. Some of the most commonly reported symptoms include:

  • Fatigue: Many people with BII report feeling extremely tired, even after a full night’s sleep.
  • Joint and Muscle Pain: Chronic pain in the joints and muscles is another frequent complaint.
  • Cognitive Impairments: Issues like brain fog and memory problems can make daily tasks challenging.
  • Systemic Symptoms: These can include gastrointestinal issues, skin rashes, and dry eyes.

Breast Implant Illness Symptoms - breast implant illness symptoms

For instance, Julie McCarthy, a mother from Jacksonville, experienced a range of symptoms including fatigue, hair loss, brain fog, joint inflammation, and short-term memory loss. “I couldn’t walk a normal block around our block because I would be so out of breath,” she explained, highlighting how debilitating these symptoms can be.

As awareness of BII grows, more people are coming forward with their stories. This increased visibility is crucial for understanding and addressing the condition.

Real Stories

Renee Mallonee, another patient, became the first in the U.S. to receive a single port robotic nipple-sparing mastectomy after discovering she was BRCA2 positive. Her journey underscores the importance of personalized care and the potential for innovative treatments in addressing breast health issues.

Understanding the range of symptoms associated with BII is the first step in seeking appropriate care and finding relief. If you suspect you might have BII, consult with a healthcare provider who is knowledgeable about this condition.

By addressing these key areas, you can better understand BII, recognize its symptoms, and know when to seek medical advice. Next, we’ll dive into how BII is diagnosed and the importance of specialist consultations.

Common Symptoms of Breast Implant Illness

Fatigue and Chronic Pain

Many individuals with breast implant illness report extreme fatigue and chronic pain. This can manifest as joint pain, muscle pain, or a general sense of being unwell. For instance, one study found that 42.1% of patients experienced fatigue, while 30.5% reported joint pain .

Cognitive Impairments

Cognitive issues are another hallmark of breast implant illness. Symptoms like brain fog and memory issues can significantly disrupt daily life. Julie McCarthy, a patient who underwent explant surgery, described her struggle with brain fog and short-term memory loss, which severely impacted her ability to perform simple tasks .

Systemic Symptoms

Breast implant illness can also cause a range of systemic symptoms:

  • Gastrointestinal problems: Some patients experience digestive issues, including constipation and changes in appetite.
  • Rash: Skin problems like rashes are common, affecting about 16.7% of patients (source).
  • Dry eyes: Many report persistent dryness in their eyes, which can be particularly uncomfortable.

In one case study, a 40-year-old woman experienced constipation, palpitations, and dry skin soon after her implant surgery. She also dealt with left-sided headaches and upper extremity numbness, which subsided after her implants were removed .

Understanding these symptoms is crucial. If you recognize any of these signs, it’s important to seek medical advice. Next, we’ll dive into how BII is diagnosed and the importance of specialist consultations.

Diagnosing Breast Implant Illness

Medical Evaluation

Diagnosing breast implant illness (BII) can be tricky because there isn’t a single test that can confirm it. Instead, doctors often start by ruling out other conditions that might cause similar symptoms. This can include conditions like arthritis, Lyme disease, and various autoimmune disorders.

One approach doctors use is autoimmune screening. This involves checking for autoimmune markers in your blood to see if your symptoms might be due to an underlying autoimmune condition.

Importance of Specialist Consultation

Given the complexity of BII, it’s often essential to consult with specialists. Here are some key types of specialists you might need to see:

  • Rheumatologists: These doctors specialize in autoimmune diseases and can help determine if your symptoms are related to an autoimmune reaction to your implants.
  • Endocrinologists: They focus on hormone-related issues, which can sometimes be linked to breast implant illness symptoms like fatigue and brain fog.
  • Neurologists: If you’re experiencing cognitive impairments, such as memory issues or brain fog, a neurologist can help rule out other neurological conditions.

In one case, a patient with severe joint pain and chronic fatigue saw significant improvement after consulting with a rheumatologist and subsequently having her implants removed .

Understanding that BII symptoms can mimic other conditions is crucial. Specialist consultations can provide a more accurate diagnosis and help you get the right treatment.

Next, we’ll explore the various treatment options available for managing breast implant illness.

Treatment Options for Breast Implant Illness

When it comes to treating breast implant illness (BII), there are both surgical and non-surgical options available. Understanding these options can help you make an informed decision about your health.

Surgical Interventions

Implant Removal

The primary treatment for BII is the surgical removal of the breast implants. This procedure can alleviate many of the symptoms associated with BII. According to studies, the majority of patients report significant improvements in symptoms like fatigue, anxiety, and chronic pain after implant removal .

En-Bloc Capsulectomy

An en-bloc capsulectomy involves removing the implant and the surrounding scar tissue (capsule) as one unit. This method aims to eliminate any potential sources of inflammation. While some online communities advocate for this specific procedure, it’s important to note that the type of removal may not significantly impact symptom relief. A study found that symptom reduction was similar regardless of the removal method used .

Non-Surgical Approaches

Managing Symptoms

If surgery isn’t an immediate option, managing symptoms through various non-surgical approaches can also provide relief. These approaches often involve:

  • Medications: Anti-inflammatory drugs, pain relievers, and other medications can help manage symptoms like joint pain and chronic fatigue.
  • Lifestyle Changes: Diet, exercise, and stress management techniques can also play a crucial role in managing symptoms.

Alternative Therapies

Some patients find relief through alternative therapies. These can include:

  • Physical Therapy: Helps improve muscle strength and reduce pain.
  • Acupuncture: Can alleviate pain and improve overall well-being.
  • Holistic Approaches: Such as herbal supplements and mind-body practices like yoga and meditation.

While these non-surgical methods can help manage symptoms, they do not address the root cause of BII. Therefore, they are often used in conjunction with surgical treatments for more comprehensive care.

Next, we’ll address some frequently asked questions about breast implant illness to help you navigate this complex condition.

Frequently Asked Questions about Breast Implant Illness

What is the likelihood of developing BII?

It’s hard to say exactly how common breast implant illness (BII) is. Researchers are still trying to understand it better. More than 400,000 people in the U.S. get breast implants each year, but not everyone develops BII. Current studies suggest that the risk is not very high, but it’s real and should be considered if you have or are thinking about getting implants.

Can BII symptoms appear years after surgery?

Yes, BII symptoms can appear at any time after you get breast implants. Some people notice symptoms soon after surgery, while others may not experience issues for many years. For instance, in one case study, a woman began experiencing symptoms like fatigue and chest pain three years after her implant surgery. This variability makes it important to monitor your health continuously if you have implants.

How does implant removal impact symptoms?

Many people report feeling better almost immediately after removing their implants. Studies from the American Society of Aesthetic Plastic Surgery show that symptoms often improve within three months post-surgery. However, not everyone experiences relief. For example, some women feel better within 30 days, while others may take longer or see no change. It’s essential to discuss the potential outcomes with your surgeon before making a decision.

Next, we’ll delve into the current research and insights on breast implant illness to give you a clearer picture of what scientists are discovering.

Current Research and Insights


Research on breast implant illness (BII) is still evolving. Organizations like the FDA and the American Society for Aesthetic Plastic Surgery have made it a priority to understand this condition better. A study reviewed by the FDA identified 9,458 medical device reports (MDRs) with systemic symptoms linked to breast implants from 2008 to 2023. The most common symptoms reported were fatigue, joint pain, and anxiety.

Heavy Metals Analysis

One key finding in recent research is that fewer heavy metals are detected in breast implant capsules compared to breast tissue from patients who never had implants. This suggests that heavy metal toxicity might not be a significant factor in BII symptoms. Instead, other environmental exposures like smoking, marijuana use, and dietary sources could be contributing factors.

Long-Term Tracking

To gain more definitive data, a BII task force within The Aesthetic Society is conducting a long-term study. This research aims to track new breast implant patients for over 10 years. The goal is to establish clearer data and find more answers for both patients and healthcare providers.

Case Studies

Real-life cases provide valuable insights. For instance, Julie McCarthy experienced severe fatigue, hair loss, and joint pain after her breast reconstruction surgery. Her symptoms improved after implant removal, highlighting the potential impact of explant surgery on BII symptoms.


  • 42.1% of the MDRs reported fatigue.
  • 30.5% reported joint pain.
  • The average time from implantation to symptom onset was 5.4 years.

Expert Opinions

Dr. Scott Ackerman, a medical director, stated, “Many women report fewer symptoms after implant removal,” emphasizing the need for more scientific backing.

By staying informed about the latest research and findings, you can make better decisions regarding your breast health. Next, we’ll explore the frequently asked questions about breast implant illness to address common concerns.


At OC Breast Surgery, our specialists are dedicated to helping patients navigate the complexities of breast implant illness (BII). We understand how frustrating and concerning it can be to experience unexplained symptoms. Our team is committed to providing compassionate care and evidence-based treatments to help you feel better.

OC Breast Surgery Specialists

Our experts are well-versed in the latest research and treatments for BII. We offer a range of services, including surgical interventions like en-bloc capsulectomy, which involves removing both the implant and surrounding scar tissue. This procedure has shown promising results, with many women reporting significant symptom relief post-surgery.

Patient Support

We believe in a holistic approach to patient care. From your initial consultation to post-surgery recovery, we are with you every step of the way. Our team is here to answer your questions, address your concerns, and provide the support you need to make informed decisions about your health.

Future Research

Research on breast implant illness is ongoing, and we are committed to staying at the forefront of new findings. Studies have shown that a significant percentage of women experience symptom improvement after implant removal. For instance, a study in the Netherlands reported that 69% of women showed complete symptom resolution after explantation.

Comprehensive Information

By addressing these key areas, we aim to provide you with comprehensive information on breast implant illness symptoms. This article helps you understand the condition, recognize symptoms, and explore potential treatment options.

If you are experiencing symptoms you believe may be related to your breast implants, don’t hesitate to contact us for a consultation. Our specialists are here to help you on your journey to better health.

By staying informed and seeking expert care, you can take proactive steps toward managing your health and well-being. For more information on breast augmentation and related services, visit our breast augmentation page.