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?
What Are Symptoms of Silicone Poisoning from Breast Implants?
Doctor Answers 22
Hello, I'm very sorry to hear of your sickness, however, we need to clear up some confusion. First, I don't know what tests were performed and how a doctor found silicone and in what part of your "system"? There is no test for this. Frequently on blogs and online communities that gather together women believed to be sickened by their implants, they speak of a blood test for it. It just doesn't exists. There IS a test for SILCON, which is not at all related. (Silicon is environmentally prevalent everywhere, as it is found in dirt and is used in the manufacturing. It can impose a threat of lung disease with symptoms of exposure seen with inhalation of silica dust.)
Silicone has been studied by the FDA for over 30 years to establish its safety. In the 90's after years of more than 100 clinic studies, in 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. Additionally, it's important to note, silicone is the most common material used in every kind of medical devices/implants and some medications. These include shunts that go from the brain to the abdomen (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.
Although, it is a point of major contention, it is not an issue of plastic surgeons, including myself, not acknowledging the perception that silicone toxicity from breast implants exists. I am fully aware there are people that are still 100% convinced of silicone toxicity and continue to spread this message to the public despite any substantiated scientific evidence. I know that patients experiencing a host of ambiguous health issues of all sorts are desperate to find a source to blame, feel retribution and find a huge comfort in talking to others who feel the same. Unfortunately, there is a huge difference in a perceived problem and actual evidence of said issue. We know this, the problem is that there is absolutely no known toxicity from silicone gel breast implants and it would be irresponsible to say otherwise.
That being said, if you feel you are experiencing any health issues related or not to your implants, you are well within your rights as a patient to have them removed. I see at least 1 to 2 patients a week ready to remove and not replace and I'm happy to do it! My main concern is that they understand the cosmetic outcomes of doing so and that if they are having health issues, I can't make any guarantees removing the implants will heal them. Do some patients report a full "remission" of symptoms after implant removal? You bet! Do all of them? No, they do not. Do the majority come back in 6-12 months and have another augmentation? Yes.
Possible complications of breast implants
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Do Silicone Implants cause poisoning ?
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.
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.
Really no such thing as "poisoning" from silicone
There is really no such thing as “poisoning” from silicone. Over the years there have been extensive studies and research done by respectable universities that show medical grade silicone is nontoxic. This was following intense debate on the risks associated with silicone and silicone implants, and as a result the topic has been thoroughly examined and the fears proven to be unfounded.
Another thing to remember is that silicone is actually found in the body in small amounts, and it abounds in modern day products such as foods and lotions, just to name a few.
However it is possible that if silicone leaks, the body can react to the silicone and get inflamed in the region where the silicone has leaked. This inflammation is not common but is possible, and seems to be more common with older implants. If there are any questions about silicone leaks in your implants, or you fear the possibility see your doctor.
No such thing as "silicone poisoning"
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.
Studies do not show that silicone "poisoning" exists.
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.
Very Unlikely related to your implants
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.
Many studies have been done regarding silicone gel filled implants and toxicity. None has linked silicone with any specific diseases.
It is interesting that you have had the implants for 19 years and are now getting sick. The time line does not really compute.
You should look for all sources of illness, and don't just focus on the implants. You wouldn't want to miss something.
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.