Lupus and Breast Implants

The Connection Between Lupus and Breast Implants

Researchers have been looking into the link between Lupus and breast implants since at least 1992. Over the years, a number of studies have been carried out which aim to establish a relationship between Lupus and breast implants. On this page, we will discuss a few of these studies, as well as determine whether there is actually a link between the two.

When does Lupus occur after breast implant surgery?

Those women who do report issues with Lupus after receiving breast implant surgery are likely to notice the effects after a couple of weeks. The symptoms will be similar to Lupus, although, in many cases the pain associated with the condition will be localized to the area where the breast implant was placed. However, this will change within a couple of weeks, and the pain will become more ‘Lupus-like’. This means pain in the joints of the body. For some women, these symptoms will eventually clear up. However, other women have noted that their Lupus-like symptoms do not disappear until the breast implants have been removed.

It is worth noting at this stage that much of the evidence related to Lupus and its connection to breast implants is purely anecdotal. Yes, plenty of women out there have reported that Lupus-like symptoms occur as a result of the breast implants, but very few studies, which we are going to detail in the next section, actually support this hypothesis. This means that if the breast implants do cause Lupus, then it is very rare that it will happen. However, there may be a different explanation for it which will be addressed later.

Breast implants were banned

One of the main reasons as to why so many studies related to Lupus and breast implants started to pop up in 1992 was because the FDA went so far as to ban silicone breast implants. This is not something that they would normally do unless there is a significant link between the two, or at least evidence that some women were reporting that Lupus-like symptoms occurred as a result of the breast implant.

It is also worth noting that the ban was related to implants which were rupturing with a great deal of frequency. It was this that the FDA believed was causing Lupus-like symptoms in the individuals that had the reactions. The ban was not lifted until 2006. It was at this point that the FDA clearly felt that the health issues were unlikely to occur, but to this day, women are still reporting that they are suffering from Lupus shortly after they have had the breast implants installed.

What do the studies say?

There are two main studies into the link between Lupus and breast implants:

  • The first study was carried out by the Institute of Medicine and the National Academy of Sciences. They looked at the link between various health conditions and breast implants. While there were some instances where there was a clear link between breast implants and health issues, they were unable to establish a link between connective tissue diseases and breast implants. This means that they did not find any evidence which stated that those who had breast implants were more likely to develop Lupus.
  • There is a conflicting study which states that connective tissue diseases can be linked to Lupus. However, it is worth noting that this study is regarded as having used a ‘flawed sample’ and the study relied on self-reports rather than genuine testing. It is likely that a study like this will be repeated in the future, and it is also likely that the study will go to great lengths to ensure that the methodology that they use is sound. 

What could this mean?

Lupus is one of many different types of autoimmune diseases. When an individual suffers from Lupus, it is the result of a breakdown with their immune system i.e. the system in your body which is responsible for getting rid of threatening bacteria, viruses etc. With Lupus, the immune system starts to attack the healthy tissue in your body.

Obviously, when you have a breast implant put in, it is a foreign object. Your body is designed to try and force out any foreign object as it sees them as a threat. Unfortunately with breast implants, it is a threat that it can’t get rid of. As a result, the immune system goes into hyper-drive attacking that breast implant and continues this. It is believed that this may be linked to Lupus. The majority of people who suffer from Lupus find that their condition is worsened when their immune system is forced into extreme action like this. This could explain why people that have breast implants may suffer from Lupus.

A second hypothesis is that the Lupus is ‘dormant’ in people until there is a trigger which sets it off. It is believed that many people out there are susceptible to Lupus, but they never get it as their body is not ‘triggered’. Therefore, those people who suffer from Lupus after breast implants may have ‘Lupus’ in their system already, they just never experienced the symptoms. 

If you believe that you are suffering from Lupus as a result of the breast implants that you have received, then you will almost certainly want to talk to your doctor. As mentioned previously, there is no established link between the two at least which occurs on a regular, documented basis, but it is still important to discuss with your doctor because if you do have Lupus, then it is absolutely vital that you address it as soon as possible. This will ensure that the condition will be potentially easier to manage. Which ultimately means less pain and the various other side-effects related to the condition. Remember, if you have a breast implant removed, there is absolutely no guarantee that the Lupus will cease.