Breast Implant Illness

Breast implant illness (BII) is a collection of symptoms that may be related to breast implants. Though the exact cause isn’t known, BII may be related to autoimmune or inflammatory responses. Common symptoms include fatigue, joint pain, brain fog and rash. Healthcare providers diagnose BII by ruling out other conditions. Treatment involves implant removal.


What is breast implant illness?

Breast implant illness (BII) refers to a wide range of symptoms that occur after getting breast implants. As researchers are just starting to study BII, it isn’t yet recognized as an official medical diagnosis, but this may change.

Other names for breast implant illness include:

  • Breast implant disease.
  • Autoimmune/inflammatory syndrome induced by adjuvants (ASIA).
  • Silicone implant illness.

People with BII have symptoms whether they have saline-filled or silicone-filled implants. Symptoms can start soon after breast implant surgery or not for many years. Many people report that their BII symptoms go away after a surgeon removes their implants, but others don’t.


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Who might have breast implant illness?

Any person with breast implants might have BII.

How common is breast implant illness?

It’s unclear how common breast implant illness is, but more than 400,000 people in the U.S. have breast implants each year.


Symptoms and Causes

What causes breast implant illness?

Researchers don’t know the exact cause of breast implant illness. But some researchers suspect that BII may be caused by:

  • Autoimmune or inflammatory reaction to parts of the breast implant, such as silicone.
  • Bacteria may grow on an implant surface and cause infection (biofilm infection).
  • Reaction to the surgery used to insert breast implants.

What are the symptoms of breast implant illness?

Symptoms of breast implant illness can vary from person to person. People have reported more than 50 symptoms that impact their musculoskeletal system, ability to think and focus (cognitive symptoms) and overall body (systemic symptoms).

Common musculoskeletal symptoms include:

Common cognitive symptoms include:

Common systemic symptoms include:


Diagnosis and Tests

How is breast implant illness diagnosed?

Currently, there aren’t any commonly used tests to diagnose breast implant illness. Your healthcare provider will ask about your symptoms and medical history. Depending on your specific symptoms, they may order tests to rule out other diseases or conditions, such as arthritis or Lyme disease. And, removal of the implants may or may not make the symptom associated with BII go away.

Management and Treatment

How is breast implant illness treated?

Surgeons usually treat breast implant illness with breast implant removal. During this surgery, your surgeon will:

  1. Make an incision around your nipple or under the fold of your breasts.
  2. Remove the implants.
  3. Possibly remove the scar tissue surrounding the implant.
  4. Close the incision with skin adhesives, stitches and/or tape.

Many surgeons will offer to remove the scar tissue around your breast implants at the same time. They call this a capsulectomy. When the breast implant and capsule are removed as a unit, it’s called an en bloc capsulotomy.

How soon after treatment will I see results?

Several studies show improvement in symptoms almost immediately after implant removal. However, not everyone will demonstrate improvement. Relief may occur within the first 30 days after surgery. One study from the American Society of Aesthetic Plastic Surgery showed improvement in symptoms within three months of surgery.


How can I reduce my risk of breast implant illness?

Experts don’t know why some people get BII while the majority of others don’t. Certainly, one way to eliminate the risk of BII is choosing not to get breast implants. If you already have breast implants and show signs of BII, talk to your plastic surgeon.

Outlook / Prognosis

What can I expect if I have breast implant illness?

Researchers are continuing to study breast implant illness. This knowledge will help to determine causes and treatment options.

Living With

How do I take care of myself with breast implant illness?

Having BII symptoms can be upsetting and confusing. It’s important to find a healthcare provider who listens to your concerns. You want someone who’ll perform a full evaluation and find ways to help you get better.

When should I see my healthcare provider?

See your healthcare provider if any symptoms worsen or you notice any new symptoms.

A note from Cleveland Clinic

Breast implant illness (BII) is a collection of symptoms that occur in people with breast implants. There isn’t an official medical diagnosis for BII. Symptoms may include fatigue, joint pain, brain fog, dry eyes and many other health concerns. Healthcare providers diagnose BII by ruling out other health conditions. Breast implant illness treatment involves removing the implants. Many people see improvement in their symptoms soon after implant removal. Researchers continue to study BII to help improve recognition and understanding of this condition.

Medically Reviewed

Last reviewed on 06/28/2022.

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