Navigating the Breast Implant Dilemma: Insights on BII Concerns and Health Anxiety

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Question time!

“I really want breast implants but I’m scared of BII. I spent 10 years healing from random health issues and I’m really dialed in with my health, stress, and Hashimoto’s. I have a couple MTHFR genes. I feel great, so I’m scared of backtracking. Thoughts?”

The first question that comes to my mind is, why are you worried about breast implant illness (BII)? I’m asking because there are two possible reasons: (1) you have an actual medical condition that could be impacted by breast implants which I don’t see here in your question, or (2) you got sucked into the fear-mongering belief contagion around breast implants on social media and elsewhere.

From a general standpoint, BII isn’t a true medical condition. It lacks diagnostic criteria and is a condition of exclusion — something left over when other possibilities have been eliminated from consideration.

Most women who believe they have BII haven’t dug very deep into determining what the cause of their symptoms is. Understandable, given that it can be a lengthy process requiring more rigor than they wish to devote. It’s easier for them to just blame BII.

The unfortunate result of such things is an ever-growing social media presence of biased and unreliable anecdotes bleeding into the minds of well-meaning and anxious women, causing their own manifestation of symptoms. Every headache, joint ache, stomach ache, rash, fatigue, or other vague symptom that could be attributed to anything… now attributed to BII.

Although there are legitimate illnesses tied to breast implants — very rare illnesses — BII doesn’t seem to be among them, at least not in any scientific way. All it takes is a little time spent in the breast explant regret groups to see the number of women who drank the BII Kool-Aid, only to have none of their health problems disappear upon breast implant removal.

On the other side of the explant spectrum, there are women who are so bought into their BII story that it becomes their identity, causing them to abandon all rationality on the topic and engage in some of the most severe confirmation bias that I’ve ever witnessed. Their emotional investment and sensational language are dead give aways that they are not a reliable source of information on the topic.

Based on your language, you’ve already exposed yourself to BII. So, my best advice to you is to simply not worry about it. Don’t give energy to this anecdotal entity. Don’t erroneously associate every little negative symptom you have with breast implants. Feeding the nocebo beast only makes it grow. Also, if you are already in some BII social media groups, join some pro-implant groups to balance out the information you are being exposed to, like Bustmob and Breast Explant Regret.

Also, there hasn’t been a definitive link between breast implants and autoimmune diseases. With Hashimoto’s disease specifically, there is some evidence that breast implant surgery transiently raises thyroid antibody levels, but (1) not to a clinically meaningful extent and (2) its impossible to separate the effect of breast implants from the surgery itself (and all that’s involved, like general anesthesia). I personally wouldn’t be concerned about a link based on the available evidence.

And of course, if you haven’t already, check out my article on breast implant safety.

The Instagram video for this post can be found here.

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