What Are Symptoms of Silicone Poisoning from Breast Implants?

I got silicone breast implants over a decade ago, and I have recently become very sick.  The only doctor I've seen so far took a blood sample and found silicone in my system.  Could it be that I have silicone poisoning from my breast implants?  What are the symptoms?

Doctor Answers (18)

Facticious Disorder

+3

To date, there is no proof of anything called silicone poisoning from breast implants. If silicone was found in your blood, it got there through another route. Older implants should be changed though since they have something called a "bleed" which is an oily fluid that comes out of them. The newer implants do not have this.


Miami Beach Plastic Surgeon
5.0 out of 5 stars 117 reviews

Do Silicone Implants cause poisoning ?

+2
Despite three decades of safety testing and monitoring of silicone breast implants, there is still a public perception that silicone breast implants are more toxic or dangerous than saline implants. The truth is that there has no known toxicity from silicone gel breast implants. In fact, silicone is one of the most common materials used in medical devices and implants.  There is no known toxicity from silicone gel breast implants. It has been studied by the FDA for more than three decades to establish its safety. Silicone is the most common material used in medical devices/implants. Examples include shunts that go from the brain to the abdomen (for hydrocephalus) which are left in for a lifetime, artificial finger joints, syringes, IVs, catheters (including ones that go next to the heart), surrounding pacemakers, and even oral anti-gas tablets.
The one possible exception may by the PIP implant made in France (generally not available in the USA). Most of the concerns about the PIP implant were about the use of non-medical silicone and manufacturing problems, and do not relate to implants used in the United States by board-certified plastic surgeons. This is not to say that breast implants, like any implant, can have problems; they may have to be removed and are not meant to last a life time. Common reasons for replacement include: capsular contracture, rupture, infection, change in breast size, and pain—but not for toxicity.
To answer the perceived toxicity of Silicone by the general public—this is quite a different matter.
Breast implants have been around since the 1960s. About 15 years ago Connie Chung ran an exposé, Face to Face with Connie Chung, claiming silicone implants were responsible for different health problems. This led to lawsuits, a huge windfall for lawyers, and the subsequent ban on silicone implants for first-time breast augmentation patients went into effect. They were always available for breast reconstruction (e.g. after mastectomy) and replacement of existing silicone breasts. Also, please note that saline implants are still covered by a silicone envelope.
Soon after, a ban on silicone implant use became worldwide. This lasted for years until more than 100 clinical studies showed that breast implants aren’t related to cancer, lupus, scleroderma, other connective tissue diseases, or the host of other problems they were accused of causing.
June 1999, The Institute of Medicine released a 400-page report prepared by an independent committee of 13 scientists. They concluded that although silicone breast implants may be responsible for localized problems such as hardening or scarring of breast tissue, implants do not cause any major diseases such as depression, chronic fatigue syndrome, lupus or rheumatoid arthritis, etc.
The Institute of Medicine is part of the National Academy of Sciences, the nation’s most prestigious scientific organization.
Eventually, a federal judge dismissed/rejected the lawsuits, declaring them junk science and ended for the most part the barrage of lawsuits. This led to the present reintroduction of silicone implants years ago and their approval by the FDA. Interestingly enough, most of the rest of the world reintroduced them many years prior to the United States.

Larry S. Nichter, MD, MS, FACS
Orange County Plastic Surgeon
5.0 out of 5 stars 50 reviews

Silicone really does not make people sick.

+2

To pfeffer10,

Hi. I am so sorry that you are not well. All I can do is reassure you that it is not your implants that are making you sick. Silicone is everywhere (including maybe a little bit in your blood) and it is harmless.

I know the research on silicone implants really well. They don't cause ANY illness. All the bad publicity from years ago was "junk science" paid for by lawyers who made many millions of dollars by scaring women and driving Dow Corning (which manufactured silicone) bankrupt.

You should have an MRI of your breasts to make sure that one of your implants is not leaking. But even if an implant is leaking, it is just a LOCAL problem. It is not going to give you any symptoms.

So please go to a good internist to find out what's really wrong with you.

George J. Beraka, MD (retired)
Manhattan Plastic Surgeon
5.0 out of 5 stars 9 reviews

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Silicone Poisoning

+1
The use of liquid silicone implants was the source of tremendous controversy approximately fifteen years ago. This subject has been studied extensively and the FDA has ruled that silicone breast implants are safe for breast augmentation. Silicone poisoning as a distinct entity has not been described. It’s also important to know that silicone is found everywhere in our environment. It’s even found in tooth paste. 

Richard J. Bruneteau, MD
Omaha Plastic Surgeon
5.0 out of 5 stars 89 reviews

Are your implants silicone gel?

+1

Pfeffer,

Do you know if your implants are silicone gel filled? Gel filled implants were not available in the U.S. for first time breast augmentation patients ten years ago. They were re-approved for this use by the FDA in 2006 after 14 years of research confirming that essentially there is no such thing as silicone poisoning and no cause and effect between silicone gel implants and disease. Pursue the issue further with your doctor, who may refer you on to a rheumatologist for further work up. Good luck!

Kenneth R. Francis, MD
Manhattan Plastic Surgeon
4.5 out of 5 stars 32 reviews

No such thing as silicone poisoning

+1

Although silicone may be detected in your body, that does not mean that it is causing your disease.

Many studies have been performed out of respective university centers that have shown no link between silicone implants and what had been called in the past: human adjuvant disease.

Many rheumatologists have developed a battery of tests that can document the presence of silicone antibodies and elevated blood levels of different markers in women with breast implants; the clinical significance of these blood tests remains unknown.

Furthermore, implants is not the only source of silicone. Most hypodermic needles are coated with silicone to make them enter the skin more smoothly. Again, this is not known to cause disease.

However, there are other conditions which may be associated with the presence of implants that could be responsible for a variety of signs and symptoms. One of these is called a biofilm. It develops around almost any implant (hip, knee, pacemaker, etc) and is an area of extensive research. It forms a layer that contains bacteria in a dormant state and is very different from an active infection. Some researchers believe this is the cause of firmness around an implant called a capsular contracture.

In any event, it is important that you have the integrity of your implants assessed. The best non-surgical test is an MRI but surgery remains the only true definitive way to make this determination.

I hope this helps. It is a very complex matter whichhas been the focus of alot of hype and misinformation.

Otto Joseph Placik, MD
Chicago Plastic Surgeon
5.0 out of 5 stars 48 reviews

Silicone breast implants do not cause silicone poisoning

+1

Silicone breast implants do not cause silicone "poisoning". Silicone in various forms are ubiquitous, being present in foods, lotions, shampoos, conditioners, etc. and is found in trace amounts in our bodies.

You should, however, always be vigilant about the possibility of rupture or leakage of your implants implanted for more than 10 years even though this by itself may not and usually does not cause systemic illnesses.

Robin T.W. Yuan, MD
Beverly Hills Plastic Surgeon
5.0 out of 5 stars 8 reviews

No such thing as "silicone poisoning"

+1

First, a couple of things you need to know: studies have conclusively shown that medical grade silicone is nontoxic. This was a topic of intense interest about 15 years ago and there is probably no medical device that has been studied more thoroughly as a result.

Additionally, everyone in a modern society has silicone in their system, as it is ubiquitous in our environment in a number of consumer products. If you have ever had an IV, you have silicone from the lubricant on the needle. A number of blood tests were promoted purporting to be able to diagnose "silicone poisoning" and they have all been proven worthless.

If you have seen only one doctor and he/she is suggesting silicone poisoning as a reasonable explanation for your illness, you really need another opinion.

Richard Baxter, MD
Seattle Plastic Surgeon
5.0 out of 5 stars 28 reviews

Studies do not show that silicone "poisoning" exists.

+1

If your implants are silicone from about 20 years ago, it is likely that they should be removed and either replaced with newer implants or left out. No studies have shown that there is a condition of "silicone poisoning". Silicone is a naturally existing substance that is non reactive.

Silicone is present in the syringe and needle that drew your blood as well as in orange juice and many other substance and foods you ingest. I would suggest getting a work up from a good Internal Medicne doctor to evaluate your problems.

William B. Rosenblatt, MD
New York Plastic Surgeon
4.0 out of 5 stars 9 reviews

Very Unlikely related to your implants

+1

Hi there,

There are a few things you should understand, and that I think will help you feel better that your implants are not the cause of your illness. Even when your implants were new, your system was exposed to a small amount of silicone on the surface of the implants. As they aged, this "gel bleed" more than likely increased over time. In fact, with your implants being almost 20 years old, it is very likely that you have had exposure for some time; meaning that if you were to react to it in some way, this should have reasonably occurred many years before now.

As mentioned by my colleague, a great many studies have now been done around the world, on thousands of women, showing no link between silicone implants and any systemic illness. Silicone is inert; your body does not react to it. So, there are no symptoms or silicone illness.

Armando Soto, MD, FACS
Orlando Plastic Surgeon
5.0 out of 5 stars 113 reviews

These answers are for educational purposes and should not be relied upon as a substitute for medical advice you may receive from your physician. If you have a medical emergency, please call 911. These answers do not constitute or initiate a patient/doctor relationship.