Breast Implant Illness


Breast Implant Illness (BII) is a combination of various systemic symptoms that women with breast implants have reported. Symptoms have been reported in women with saline, silicone, smooth and textured implants. There are no known risk factors.

At this time, breast implant illness (BII) is not an official medical diagnosis, as there is no blood or diagnostic exam to test for breast implant illness. It is not currently associated with an autoimmune disease or connective tissue disease. The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has made no recommendations on the diagnosis or treatment of these symptoms. Some women who have suffered from these symptoms report resolution with implant and breast capsule removal. These symptoms include (but are not limited to):

  • fatigue
  • chest pain
  • joint pain
  • hair loss
  • headaches
  • chills
  • photosensitivity
  • chronic pain
  • rash
  • Metallic taste
  • anxiety
  • brain fog
  • sleep disturbance
  • depression
  • neurologic issues
  • hormonal issues

Symptoms may start within months after surgery, but in many women they take years to appear. If you start having unexplained symptoms at any point after getting breast implants and you have not found answers from other doctors, schedule an evaluation at the Beverly Hills Breast Institute so Dr. Schwartz can evaluate you and help you recover.

Who gets BII?

BII can affect both women who get cosmetic breast augmentation and those who have breast reconstructive surgery following a mastectomy. If you have breast implants of any type, whether they’re silicone, saline, textured or smooth, you could be at risk for BII. This is because saline implants have a silicone shell and silicone can serve as a chronic stimulator of the immune system.


How do you diagnose breast implant illness?

There’s no set protocol for breast implant illness diagnosis because it’s still not an official medical diagnosis. That means you need an experienced diagnostician like Dr. Schwartz.

In some cases, breast implant illness sufferers have underlying autoimmunity, other immune system dysregulation and/or autonomic dysfunction. Dr. Schwartz can perform diagnostic tests, review all your symptoms, and prescribe different treatments to see how your illness responds as part of the BII diagnostic process.

How do you treat BII?

BII treatment depends on your symptoms, whether you have additional conditions, and your personal wishes. Many women experience significant improvement after having their breast implants removed, but some women opt to keep their implants and use non-surgical treatments.

Dr. Schwartz treats the root cause of breast implant illness, which may include medication, lifestyle changes, dietary changes, stress reduction exercises, and other nonoperative techniques. He always tailors care for you with her ultimate goal being your quality of life.

Silicone Usage in Breast Implants

Silicone is made from an organic element and used in many medical devices. Silicone gel implants have been studied by the FDA for many years and, to date, have not been proven to cause any disease. Smooth shell silicone gel implants are currently FDA approved for use in breast augmentation and breast reconstruction in the United States.

Many different organizations, such as the American Society for Plastic Surgeons and the American Society of Aesthetic Plastic Surgery, are funding research to further understand if there is a potential link between silicone gel breast implants and autoimmune conditions, such as rheumatoid arthritis or lupus. Patients who self-identify as having breast implant illness have tested both positive and negative on confirmatory laboratory tests for autoimmune diseases; thus, at this time, there is no direct causal relationship between BII and autoimmune diseases.

What Is the Difference Between BII and Capsular Contracture?

As with any foreign object placed in the body, including a breast implant, it is the body’s natural response to form a layer of scar tissue around it. The scar layer around the implant is called a breast capsule. It takes approximately 4-6 weeks from the date of surgery to form.

In a small percentage of women, the capsule can become irritated, and contract tightly around the implant. This causes pain or discomfort known as capsular contracture. There are many theories as to why this occurs, and there are strategies to decrease the risk of this contracture. The definitive treatment is the removal of the breast implant and the capsule. In women with BII, there has been no increased association with capsular contracture; rather, they present with concerns of systemic symptoms such as fatigue and rash. However, the treatment is the same – removal of the implant and surrounding scar capsule.