Breast Implant Problems? It's Complicated

We’ve all heard the myths about implants: they’ll burst on planes or under water, they’ll leak with the slightest touch, or you will not be able to breast feed with implants. While these rumors are easily dispelled, women often have problems with breast implants that go beyond the lip service in today’s media.

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The issues that women encounter after having a breast augmentation range from the minor to the detrimental. If you think there is an issue with your implant, make an appointment with your plastic surgeon as soon as possible. But how do you know if there is something wrong with your implant? Here are some common questions:

How Do I Know If My Implant Is Leaking?

As your doctor should inform you, breast implants are not considered permanent. They should be replaced every 10-15 years to ensure that they do not break down in the body. But some implants do not last that long, and they get ruptured from a harsh impact, needles, or even normal wear and tear.

If you have a saline implant, leaking will be very obvious: your breast will lose its fullness. Luckily, the fluid in these implants does not harm the body. Silicone leaks are harder to detect. Silicone leaks are slower and can take a number of years to become detectable. Often times, the silicone filling will stay inside the scar tissue capsule. If it does not stay inside the capsule, the silicone can migrate to other parts of the body, like the lymph nodes, and become harder to remove.

Here are some common symptoms of silicone implant leakage:

  • Change in the size or shape of your breast (including lumps)
  • Pain or tenderness
  • Swelling or a tingling sensation

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How Do I Know If It’s Capsular Contracture?

When you receive a breast augmentation, your body responds by putting a capsule of tissue around the implant to protect it. If this capsule shrinks, tightening its grip on the implant, it is called capsular contracture. This side effect of augmentation can be painful and cause a hardening of the breast. There are five stages of capsular contracture:

  • Grade I: The breast has maintained its size and shape and is soft to the touch.
  • Grade II: The breast has begun to harden, but appears normal.
  • Grade III: The capsule has tightened to the extent that the breast is hard and the implant is misshapen.
  • Grade IV: The hardness causes severe pain and the breasts are misshapen.

Recognizing capsular contracture is easier than recognizing a leak. Symptoms of capsular contracture include:  

  • Breasts rising to a higher position on the chest
  • Breasts appearing artificially round, like a ball
  • Breasts appearing unnatural
  • Pain around the implant
  • Hardening of the breast

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No matter the symptoms, it is important that you see your plastic surgeon if you believe you are experiencing a complication. Doing so can save you from future problems.