Can Breast Implants Make You Sick? (2023)


Getting breast implants can change a person’s life for the better. But in recent years, some people have suspected that their breast implants have made them very ill with diseases such as:

  • rheumatoid arthritis
  • scleroderma
  • Sjögren’s syndrome

Older studies showed no clear scientific evidence connecting these conditions to breast implants — silicone or saline-filled. However, newer studies from different sources have found an association between silicone breast implants and certain autoimmune diseases.

These studies suggest that silicone breast implants potentially raise your risk of developing an autoimmune disease such as rheumatoid arthritis, Sjögren’s syndrome, scleroderma, and sarcoidosis.

On the other hand, another source notes that the FDA is not able to say there’s a direct relationship between silicone implants and autoimmune diseases.

The same source notes that other experts don’t think the evidence is strong enough at this time to conclusively show an association between these breast implants and autoimmune disease.

The World Health Organization and the U.S. Food and Drug Administration have identified another possible cause for concern. This relates breast implants to a rare cancer called breast implant-associated anaplastic large cell lymphoma (BIA-ALCL).

Additionally, breast implants are known to cause other potential risks such as:

  • scarring
  • breast pain
  • infection
  • sensory changes
  • implant leakage or rupture

What causes BIA-ALCL?

(Video) Can Breast Implants Make You Sick? BII

Scientists say the exact causes of BIA-ALCL aren’t well understood. However, it does appear that textured implants are associated with more cases of BIA-ALCL than smooth implants.

Scientists say this could be due to the fact that textured implants have a greater surface area on which a bacterial infection can form. Infections could trigger a type of immune response that ultimately, in very rare cases, results in BIA-ALCL.

Regardless of implant type, smooth or textured, it’s essential to prevent infection. Infection is a much more common illness related to breast implants. Any surgery comes with infection risks, including breast augmentation. Infections can occur when a surgery site isn’t kept clean or if bacteria enters your breast during surgery.

Besides infection, other complications associated with breast implants may occur. These include:

  • bruising
  • bleeding
  • blood clots
  • skin necrosis
  • slowed wound healing
  • scar tissue buildup (capsular contracture)
  • implant deflation and rupture
  • change in breast shape, volume, or sensation
  • thinning of your breast tissue and skin
  • calcium deposits
  • breast discomfort
  • nipple discharge
  • dropping or bottoming out of the implant
  • asymmetry
  • need for further surgery

BIA-ALCL is often contained inside the tissue surrounding the implant. However, it can spread to other parts of your body’s lymphatic system, including the lymph nodes. The main symptoms include:

  • continuous swelling or pain around your breast implant, which may occur long after a surgical incision has healed or many years after implants are inserted
  • fluid collection around your breast implant
  • capsular contracture, which can cause a lump under your skin or thick scar tissue around the implant resulting in a misshapen appearance

Symptoms of other breast implant complications vary. As noted above, infection is one complication associated with BIA-ALCL. It’s important to treat any breast implant complications that arise. If you experience any of the following symptoms, call your doctor right away:

(Video) VIDEO: News 5 Investigates: Are your breast implants making you sick?

  • redness
  • swelling
  • pain
  • discharge
  • change in breast shape or color
  • fever

Regarding autoimmune symptoms to look for, one study notes that silicone breast implants can cause symptoms of autoimmune diseases in some patients. These symptoms include:

  • fatigue
  • cognitive impairment
  • arthralgias, myalgias
  • pyrexia
  • dry eyes
  • dry mouth

Silicone also has the potential to leak from the implant throughout the body, possibly leading to a chronic inflammatory condition.

If you experience any of the connective tissue inflammatory symptoms above, let your doctor know.

BIA-ALCL is classified as a T-cell lymphoma. It may develop following the surgical insertion of breast implants.

T-cell lymphomas are cancers that form in your T cells, a type of immune system white blood cell. These cancers tend to be fast growing per the American Cancer Society. The outlook for a person diagnosed with BIA-ALCL depends on the stage of their cancer at diagnosis and how aggressive it is.

Half of all reported cases of BIA-ALCL are reported within 7 to 8 years of the insertion of breast implants. Because the symptoms of BIA-ALCL are relatively nonspecific, experts say these diagnoses may be complicated and delayed.

But as scientific knowledge about it has grown in recent years, experts have begun to establish diagnosis standards.

(Video) The Science Behind Breast Implant Illnesses | Laura Miles | TEDxUCO

When a doctor suspects BIA-ALCL, they’ll run a variety of tests to rule out any other causes of your symptoms. These tests may include:

  • An ultrasound-guided aspiration of fluid that’s collected around your breast implant. A cancerous T cell presence in this fluid can tip off your doctor to BIA-ALCL.
  • Thick scarring that’s apparent around your implant.
  • If an abnormal breast mass is found, your doctor may test the tissue for lymphoma using a biopsy.

For autoimmune disease, various blood tests can be performed. These are done alongside a thorough history and physical examination. Doctors look for the clinical symptoms and signs occurring for each individual. Depending on the type and location of inflammatory symptoms, imaging testing may be of use as well.

If you’re diagnosed with BIA-ALCL, your doctor will recommend a PET-CT scan. This imaging test checks for signs of lymphoma in other parts of your body. This cancer, while rare, may be aggressive and can spread.

For most people with BIA-ALCL that’s confined to the tissues surrounding one or both breasts, surgical removal of one or both implants is necessary. With an earlier stage 1 diagnosis, implant removal is typically enough to stop the progression of the disease.

However, for cancer at stage 2 or higher that’s spread, more aggressive treatment is necessary. In addition to implant removal, chemotherapy may be able to slow or stop disease progression.

Other complications associated with breast implants are typically treated on a symptom-by-symptom basis. Antibiotics are often used to treat infection, though in severe cases, surgery might be necessary to remove the implants that have caused infection.

Regarding potential autoimmune response, one study noted that for 75 percent of patients affected, removal of their silicone breast implants provided significant relief of systemic symptoms. Symptoms included arthralgia, myalgia, fatigue, and neurological symptoms, during an observation period of 14 months following removal of the implants.

(Video) Can Breast Implants Make Me Sick? | Plastic Surgery

However, making a diagnosis and forming a treatment plan — whether medical or surgical — needs to be a well-thought-out process between a patient and their doctor.

The survival rate for people with BIA-ALCL is relatively high at 89 percent at 5 years, in general for any stage of this cancer. The survival rate is even higher for people with stage 1 cancer who have a complete removal of their affected implant or implants and cancerous breast tissues.

However, cancer treatment is challenging, expensive, and not always effective.

Although there are risks associated with breast augmentation, it’s still considered a safe procedure. Before your procedure, make sure you understand your risks for complications. Keep in mind that the risk for BIA-ALCL is exceedingly rare.

Regarding the risk for autoimmune disease, recent research shows an association with breast implants, silicone in particular. However, the conclusiveness of the data is controversial and will likely require further studies to more specifically investigate and pinpoint a definite direct cause-and-effect relationship.

To minimize your risk for infection, implant rupture, and breast cancer illness, closely monitor your breasts after your procedure. Follow your surgeon’s aftercare instructions closely. See your doctor right away if you notice any changes in your breasts or health, especially if you experience signs of infection.


Can breast implants make you feel unwell? ›

More than 100 symptoms have been associated with breast implant illness, including headaches, fatigue, and gastrointestinal problems. Symptoms can occur with any type of breast implants and can start immediately after implantation or years later.

Can breast implants affect your immune system? ›

Breast implant illness (BII) is a systemic complication associated with breast implants. Patients with BII may experience autoimmune symptoms including fatigue, difficulty concentrating, hair loss, weight change, and depression.

What percent of people get sick from breast implants? ›

Previously reported prevalence rates of BII-like symptoms include postoperative rheumatic symptoms in 37.4% of cases,21 the development of a pattern of systemic complaints in more than 65% cases,22 and 3 or more BII symptoms in 38.5% to 84.7% of women with breast implants.

Can breast implants cause chronic fatigue? ›

Breast implant illness (BII) affects an unknown number of women with breast implants. If you are experiencing symptoms such as chronic fatigue, brain fog and unexplained aches and pains after getting breast implants, breast implant illness may be the cause.

Can breast implants cause flu like symptoms? ›

Breast Implant Illness

Those with serious cases of BIA-ALCL might also get feverish or have flu-like symptoms due to the inflammation of the implant site. If you have any of these symptoms, it's essential to speak with a doctor right away, as BIA-ALCL can be serious.

What health problems can breast implants cause? ›

One of the risks the panel focused on is breast implant illness, a collection of symptoms including fatigue, anxiety and depression, chest pain, and hair loss that some women believe are linked to their implants. "There is no question that a minority of women with breast implants are reporting symptoms.

Can breast implants cause inflammation in your body? ›

Silicones can migrate from the implant through the body and can induce a chronic inflammatory process.

How often do breast implants cause autoimmune disease? ›

Silicone breast implant patients face greatly increased risk of autoimmune disease, U of A research shows. As many as 26 per cent of women who get silicone breast implants are likely to develop an autoimmune disease.

How do you test for breast implant illness? ›

There is currently no way to diagnose breast implant illness. We can only rule out other inflammatory conditions with similar symptoms, such as Lyme disease or MS, and remove the implants to see if this relieves symptoms for the patient.

What is implant fatigue? ›

Fatigue is the process of localized, permanent structural change of a material under fluctuating stress [11]. Mechanical complications of implants are generally caused by fatigue stress related to mechanical overload [12]. The interpretation of fatigue limit in implants is slightly different from general mechanics.

What helps breast implant illness? ›

The main form of treatment for breast implant illness is surgical removal of the implants. The removal should include both the implant and surrounding scar tissue. This can be done at the same time, a procedure called an en bloc capsulectomy.

Can breast implants cause sinus infections? ›

Silicone contains carcinogens and toxins that can wreak havoc in the body. For example, it may cause connective tissue diseases, inflammation and symptoms of breast implant illness. Women have reported a variety of symptoms, including sinus problems, allergies and dizziness, caused by a leaking silicone implant.

What infections can you get from breast implants? ›

The most common isolated organisms from breast implant infection are S. aureus and coagulase-negative staphylococci. Staphylococcus epidermidis is the most frequent coagulase-negative Staphylococcus species. Pseudomonas aeruginosa is the second most commonly identified pathogen.

Who is more prone to breast implant illness? ›

The researchers found that the women with silicone gel-filled breast implants were significantly more likely to be diagnosed with autoimmune or rheumatic disorders, such as Sjögren syndrome, systemic sclerosis, and sarcoidosis, compared with women without breast implants of a similar age and socioeconomic status.

Why do breast implants cause autoimmune disease? ›

A July 2017 study found that silicone breast implants can “bleed”, and this is a chronic stimulant of the immune system. As the silicone spreads throughout the body, they trigger inflammatory syndrome and autoimmune responses (1).

Can breast implant illness cause back pain? ›

Symptoms of Breast Implant Illness

The breast will harden due to the immune system fighting internal wounds, which created scar tissue. Pain spreads to the chest, upper back and neck.

How does the immune system react to implants? ›

The implantation of any foreign material into the body leads to the development of an inflammatory and fibrotic process—the foreign body reaction (FBR). Upon implantation into a tissue, cells of the immune system become attracted to the foreign material and attempt to degrade it.

Can removing breast implants reverse autoimmune disease? ›

Silicone breast implant removal may relieve early autoimmune symptoms, but it will not cure an autoimmune disease that has already developed. The decision to have your breast implants removed is personal and one that should be made with your doctor.

What are the long term effects of breast implants? ›

  • Scar tissue that distorts the shape of the breast implant (capsular contracture)
  • Breast pain.
  • Infection.
  • Changes in nipple and breast sensation.
  • Implant position changes.
  • Implant leakage or rupture.

How do I know if my body is rejecting my breast implants? ›

The main symptoms include: continuous swelling or pain around your breast implant, which may occur long after a surgical incision has healed or many years after implants are inserted. fluid collection around your breast implant.

Can breast implants cause side effects? ›

Breast implant illness

Reported signs and symptoms include fatigue, memory loss, skin rash, trouble concentrating and thinking clearly, and joint pain. Removal of the breast implants may reverse the symptoms.

Will insurance pay for breast implant removal? ›

If your implants were put in after a mastectomy and your doctor believes that removing your implants is “medically necessary,” then your health insurance is legally obligated to cover your breast implant removal under the Women's Health and Cancer Rights Act of 1998 (WHCRA).

When should breast implants be removed? ›

Breast implants don't last a lifetime. The American Society of Plastic Surgeons recommends that people with breast implants have them removed or replaced every 10 to 15 years. However, your plastic surgeon may not recommend that you have them removed if you haven't had any complications.

What happens if you leave breast implants in? ›

They can rupture or leak, and saline implants may deflate. Capsular contracture may also occur, which is shrinkage of natural scar tissue that your body produces around any implanted medical device.


1. Houston woman attributes health issues to breast implant illness
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4. Breast Implant Illness|How Implants Can Make You Sick #plasticsurgery -Dr.Srikanth V|Doctors' Circle
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5. Are Your Breast Implants Making You Sick?
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