Breast Implants: Health Complications
Silicone Implants: What's the story?
Silicone breast implants were pulled from the market in 1992 due
to increasing concern that the silicone from the implants could
cause a myriad of different diseases in women. Consequent
studies have shown complications with both silicone and saline
implants, although silicone implants appear to be the biggest
culprits of autoimmune disorders.
Saline breast implants are a silicone pouch or envelope filled with
a saline solution. The solution itself, unlike silicone, is harmless. In
the case of an implant rupturing or leaking, the saline solution is
absorbed into the body without any serious consequence. The
risks involved with saline breast implants instead have two other
sources, the silicone pouch that holds the saline solution, and the
body's short and long-term response to the introduction of a
Silicone Implants and Your Health
Women with silicone implants have reported a number of different
health complications. General diffuse symptoms include swollen
and tender glands under the arms, recurrent unexplained
low-grade fever, hair loss, skin rash, memory loss, headaches,
chest pain, and shortness of breath. However, these symptoms
can be caused by several factors, and may not be at all associated
with the implants.
Although the symptoms listed above may not necessarily be due to
the implants, a stronger link has been made to autoimmune
disorders and connective tissue disease. A relatively small, yet
significant, portion of women with silicone implants has reported
various connective tissue diseases including fibromyalgia, chronic
fatigue syndrome, and carpal tunnel syndrome. Others have
reported various autoimmune diseases including systemic lupus,
rheumatoid arthritis, and multiple sclerosis.
The major studies that have been done on the link between
silicone breast implants and autoimmune disease have failed to
find a statistically significant increase in disease. However, "not
finding" and "not existing" are two different things. The use of oral
contraceptives is known to suppress immune response and breast
implant patients have higher rates of their use. Therefore, their
rates of autoimmune disease could be raised due to the implants
and suppressed due to birth control pills. These two could cancel
each other out. Then, when compared to controls the group with
implants would appear to be comparable in terms of the incidence
of autoimmune disease. There have also been general complaints
that the studies are funded by the companies being sued over the
effects of silicone implants. On the other hand, autoimmune
diseases are much more common in women. Thus, the perception
of cause and effect might actually be coincidental.
A large portion of the women with these symptoms who then opted
to have their silicone implants removed discovered that their
symptoms lessened or even disappeared after explantation of the
implants. Some women had their silicone implants replaced by
saline implants, which so far do not appear to be strongly
correlated with either autoimmune or connective tissue diseases.
However, many women are not happy with saline implants
because they can cause skin wrinkling. Even saline implants are
not completely devoid of problems. At least one case of toxic
shock syndrome has been reported in connection with saline
The Bottom Line
The decision to get breast implants is not one that should be made
off-hand. While implants may have positive effects on one's
appearance, they may also make one's breasts seem unnatural.
The many health risks are also concerns that must be considered.
Be careful when making your decision and make sure that you
speak in depth with your surgeon to explore all of your options
before committing to this augmentation surgery.