When your breast implant leaks, it won’t be obvious via breast leaking through the nipple. Instead, the saline or silicone gel will leak into the surrounding tissues. In the case of silicone breast implant leaks, it may cause breast pain as the immune system reacts to the silicone as if it is an invader. It can also alter the shape of the breast, periodically causing the breast implants to deflate or deform as silicone leaks out.
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A minor leak may be missed as the silicone is trapped in the surrounding tissue, though it increases your risk of developing auto-immune disorders and makes many women fatigued. As the tissue around the leak is irritated, it can cause swelling in the breast, change the shape of the breast, create lumps or trigger the formation of layers of scar tissue that cause the breast to become hard. If your nipples are suddenly painful and sensitive or you’ve lost sensation in the breast, the implant may be leaking. Burning pain may occur, but even this may be dismissed as an infection or cancer before it is properly diagnosed. The problem for many is that the implant could leak silicone into your body for more than a year before you see these symptoms.
A leaking silicone breast implant will be diagnosed via imaging. An MRI or ultrasound is necessary. Note that mammograms cannot accurately detect whether the breast implant is leaking. Few radiologists can properly detect leaking breast implants via sonogram.
Breast leaking from a saline implant is both safer and more obvious to the woman since the implant usually deflates quickly. The breast will change shape and shrink down in a matter of days. The body will absorb the saline solution, and their kidneys will eliminate the extra salt and water from the body. Compare this to the silicone that stays in the body, though it may spread as far as the woman’s lymph nodes.
Breast leaking is so common that the FDA recommends women with silicone gel breast implants have an MRI every three years to check for the problem. An estimated 10% of women with these implants will suffer a leak within ten years of their implantation.