Breast augmentation is — as you may already know — one of the most popular cosmetic surgical procedures in the world. With 1,348,197 procedures performed in 2014, it’s the third-most globally popular cosmetic surgical procedure. Research also shows that it’s the second most requested cosmetic surgery, after liposuction, in the United States.
Venezuela is also thought to have one of the world’s highest plastic surgery rates, with breast augmentation being one of the most popular procedures. According to the International Society of Aesthetic Plastic Surgery, Venezuelan doctors performed about 85,000 implants last year. Only the United States, Brazil, Mexico, and Germany preformed the procedure more, all of which have significantly larger populations.
However, the country is now experiencing a breast implant shortage. Things have gotten so bad that Venezuelans are actually turning to devices that are the wrong size or made in China, where quality standards are less rigorous.
The nation once had easy access to U.S. Food and Drug Administration-approved breast implants. However, doctors now say that the better breast implants are scarce because of restrictive currency controls that have deprived local businesses of the cash needed to import foreign goods, like high-quality, American-made breast implants.
“Obviously, this situation is reflected in the higher costs of prostheses,” Dr. Ernesto Mendoza, a surgeon who specializes in plastic and reconstructive surgery in Caracas, told CNN. “If these costs go up or are increased, what happens then is that surgery is only available to those with higher incomes.”
This problem may seem like a non-issue in the face of graver problems, such as the scarcity of food staples and toilet paper, but surgeons say that it’s cutting into the psyche of self-conscious Venezuelan women.
“The women are complaining,” Ramon Zapata, president of the Society of Plastic Surgeons, told the AP. “Venezuelan women are very concerned with their self-esteem.”
Women save for years to afford their operations, and are now being told they must wait longer, news that can be unbearable, according to Dr. Miguel Angel Useche, who told the AP that “Women call me up saying: ‘I’ve made so many sacrifices for this. How can you not help me?'”