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Silicone-based fillers may seem appealing because they last longer than other types of fillers; however, they have never been approved by the FDA for use as cosmetic dermal fillers. Despite this, many licensed and unlicensed practitioners in the United States have used silicone gel as a filler for the face and body.
Many of these treatments have been performed illegally by non-medical practitioners. The most common areas of silicone injection have been the lips, face, buttocks and hips. Patients who have had silicone fillers in their face and body may experience severe health problems. The most effective solution is to remove the filler, if at all possible.
Because silicone doesn't dissolve in the body, patients who develop an allergy to the product may be stuck with it forever. These so-called "permanent filler" can thus cause long-term health problems. Often, the ingredients in silicone fillers are unknown and difficult to treat when complications arise.
Injectable fillers that are silicone-based are long-lasting, thus reducing the number of injections patients need to get over time and they therefore can cost less money in the long run. The body absorbs hyaluronic acid fillers, the most popular type of filler in the U.S., within six to 24 months. Silicone fillers, on the other hand, last for years or decades, thus causing a problem in those patients who have developed an allergy to the product.
The complications from silicone-based fillers can include chronic inflammation, lumps, skin discoloration and tissue loss caused by the immune system attacking the filler. Patients need to understand the risks of using silicone fillers and how these types of fillers can contribute to chronic illness.
An immune response may be triggered when the body reacts to a foreign material such as silicone-based fillers. Hyaluronic acid fillers can be dissolved, but silicone-based fillers can't be easily removed. The inflammation from compounds in the silicone-based filler could cause chronic disease until the silicone is extracted from the body. Often surgery is required to do so.
Silicone fillers can move from the injection site to other areas of the body, causing problems in those new places. These can be areas where the filler is unwanted. Filler migration can cause inflammation and swelling in the body far from the initial injection site. These symptoms can appear at first not to be related to silicone filler, but patients and doctors need to be aware they might be linked to the filler traveling in the body.
Silicone-based fillers can cause swelling that distorts the normal appearance of the face and body. This swelling might come and go or be constant. Massaging the swollen area may help reduce the swelling to some extent.
Doctors believe the swelling caused by an immune reaction to silicone-based fillers might be because of blockages to the flow of lymphatic fluid or an allergic reaction.
Fillers that are silicone-based can get infected, causing short and long-term health problems. Sometimes the infection can be difficult to treat with antibiotics. By treating the infection, the inflammation caused by silicone fillers can be reduced.
Patients who have had silicone-based fillers may struggle with lifelong and chronic health issues because of inflammation. If you are experiencing swelling, lumps, skin color changes, tissue loss or long-term inflammation, see a doctor and mention that you had silicone-based filler injections.
The views expressed in this blog are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the opinions of the American Society of Plastic Surgeons.