If you have succumbed to mysterious and debilitating symptoms after breast implant surgery, or if you are considering breast implants, take note that both silicone and saline can make you sick.
Not only can breast implants break down, leak, or burst, but the body’s immune system may simply reject them. This rejection may lead to autoimmune reactions to other tissues in the body, meaning the immune system attacks and destroys these tissues.
Symptoms vary widely but often include fatigue, muscle and joint pain, brain fog, memory loss, depression, hair loss, and symptoms associated with specific autoimmune diseases.
Why breast implants are risky
All breast implants – whether filled with silicone or saline – leak and/or break down eventually. Some of the consequences are merely uncomfortable, while others are potentially far more serious.
Sometimes an implant can last as long as 12 years without fracturing; others may develop problems within just a few months. But no implant will remain intact indefinitely.
Mammograms will not always reveal when an implant has ruptured. In fact, pressure from the mammogram itself can damage the implant.
Possible breast implant complications
Autoimmune disorders. Any foreign substance in the body can cause an autoimmune reaction, including breast implants. Sometimes removing the implants will relieve the symptoms, although the autoimmune reaction may persist after removal and require functional medicine management.
Infection. Though leakage is less frequent with saline implants than with silicone implants, mold and bacteria can grow within the saline solution. It has been speculated that when the solution inevitably leaks out, it may cause illness and possibly even endanger a nursing baby, though this effect has not been conclusively studied or established. (For more about potential complications with saline implants, see the FDA’s comprehensive report on saline breast implant surgery.)
Cancers. Breast implants may be linked with cancer in two ways. One is that the implants can obstruct early detection of breast cancer. The other is that silicone implants in particular are believed by some doctors to leak cancer-causing chemicals.
Raynaud’s Syndrome. This is a condition in which blood circulation is restricted by a narrowing of the small arteries, causing coldness and numbness in the hands and feet. It occurs more often in women who have had breast implants.
For more detail about possible complications, see the FDA’s report on Risks of Breast Implants. A new type of implant, known as stem cell fat transfer, involves injecting fat from a woman’s hips or thighs into her breasts. This may prove a safer alternative to silicon or saline, though it is still in the testing phases.
If you suspect you are sick from your breast implants or you are trying to recover after breast implant removal, functional medicine can improve immune function and help with autoimmune remission.