Breast Implant Illness And The Symptoms No One Talks About That Are Ruining Women’s Health

Danica Patrick, former professional racecar driver and entrepreneurial maven, took to YouTube recently to disclose some intimate, shocking details about her personal health. She was experiencing hair loss, poor thyroid health, weight gain and resistance to weight loss, poor recovery from workouts, and as she put it, all of her hormones were just “shut down city.”

By Andrea Mew4 min read
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Tack on swollen lymph nodes, unusual underarm smells, lingering fatigue, and testing positive for heavy metal toxicity, leaky gut, dysbiosis and more. Danica was experiencing breast implant illness, but why did it take her so long to figure out the cause of her symptoms? Well, breast implant illness is a serious issue, but it isn’t talked about nearly enough in the media.

You May Be Experiencing Breast Implant Illness If…

Sadly, Danica Patrick’s symptom list is anything but exhaustive. The common symptom list continues, with things like premature skin aging, early menopause, low libido, GERD, persistent viral and bacterial infections, compromised organs, several types of autoimmune diseases, and much more. Some women are facing several autoimmune disorders all at once, even after having had their implants removed!

You’ve probably seen a few other celebrities talk about giving their implants the boot. Within four years of getting her implants, singer Kehlani got hers removed after suffering from complications like chronic fatigue, brain fog, severe joint pain, restless leg syndrome, and new allergies.

Clare Crawley from the Bachelorette had her implants removed after five years because of rashes, autoimmune issues and no diagnosis, inflammation, swollen lymph nodes, and more. She explained that when she got her implants, she had “no idea it could have any side effects” but felt the need to share in case other women didn’t know or pay attention to their symptoms.

These ladies are not alone. More recently, TikTok star Bunnie DeFord shared graphic images of mold that grew on her explanted silicone implants. She too had hers removed because of struggling through “so many symptoms that not one doctor could pinpoint.”

We’re Living in the Era of Injectables, Plastics, Silicones, and Lifts

Plastic surgery and cosmetic procedures are growing in popularity among our generation. Where many of these operations were once thought of as anti-aging measures, surgeries are now more common for beautification and augmentation. Our social media-driven culture circulates dreamy images of influencer models and celebrities in low-cut tops and itty bitty bikinis that put their busts on display for the entire internet. 

Teenagers and young adults exposed to these images might feel inadequate with how their own natural body compares to current beauty standards. Body and facial dysmorphia are rising thanks to this, as well as the growing popularity of Zoom calls and filters on selfies.

Many of these operations used to be anti-aging measures, but are now for beautification and augmentation.

The American Society of Plastic Surgeons (ASPS) reported that for Americans aged 13-19 breast augmentation procedures jumped from 8,076 in 2016 to 8,435 in 2017, which shows an upward trend. The numbers continued upwards in 2018 with 8,636 breast augmentations. Similarly, with Americans aged 20-29, breast augmentation procedures jumped from 82,042 in 2016 to 85,690 in 2017 to 90,395 in 2018

There are of course non-cosmetic reasons why women opt to get breast implants, such as restoration after a mastectomy. In 2018, there were over 101,000 breast reconstructions performed for women in the United States. However, that same year, 313,000 breast implant surgeries for augmentation were performed as well.

What Causes Implants To Be So Dangerous?

First things first, it's important to know that most breast implants are made and filled with silicone (smooth or textured) or made with a silicone shell but filled with saline solution. Saline is typically considered the safer option in the case of rupturing. If saltwater starts leaking into your breasts from your implant, you’ll notice sooner because it will dissolve and therefore look more deflated. On the flip side, if your silicone-filled implant ruptures, you won’t notice right away because silicone gel is thick and it doesn’t get absorbed into the body. Furthermore, it still can cause inflammatory reactions without any ruptures as the 40+ toxic chemicals and heavy metals used to make implants can leech into your body.

So let’s look at the case of one breast implant manufacturer, Allergan, who came under fire when its Biocell textured, silicone gel-filled breast implants were recalled. The FDA found links between the textured implants and BIA-ALCL, a rare large cell lymphoma cancer.

Anaplastic large cell lymphoma was connected to breast implants in 2011 by the FDA, but they originally thought that there were too few cases of cancer worldwide to take action. Lawsuits followed, naturally, with people alleging that Allergan actually had known of the cancer risk since the ‘90s. 34 women with breast implants were identified with cancer from their implants, but what the FDA failed to do was address non-cancerous health conditions that were rising from breast implants.

The 40+ toxic chemicals and heavy metals used to make implants can leech into your body.

Under close scrutiny, Allergan and Johnson & Johnson affiliate Mentor (which also faced implant recalls) began submitting incidents of suspected injuries, yet some weren’t submitted until two decades later!

Manufacturers should have been tracking long-term safety and the risks involved with silicone breast implants for 10 years after approval by the FDA, but the administration found that the data was lacking. Patients dropped out of reporting or many were just relying on self-reporting.

Nevertheless, there were some strong associations found in a study of a database of nearly 100,000 women with silicone implants to adverse health conditions. The women with implants were “8 times more likely to be diagnosed with Sjögren syndrome, an autoimmune disorder characterized by dry eyes and a dry mouth, 7 times more likely to be diagnosed with scleroderma, a group of autoimmune diseases that cause the skin and connective tissues to become hard and tighten, and nearly 6 times more likely to be diagnosed with rheumatoid arthritis.”

Though those numbers don’t prove causation, they did spark concerns for many women who were facing bizarre symptoms that they couldn’t otherwise explain.

The Women Fighting Back Are Oftentimes Silenced

Women are rising up to share their experiences of feeling wronged by their plastic surgeons and the medical industry. A private Facebook group called Healing Breast Implant Illness By Nicole has amassed 164,400 members for women to discuss their illness, explantation, and detoxification, and to support one another during their healing process.

Founder of the group and the website it was based on, Nicole Daruda, developed this community after finding that doctors and plastic surgeons weren’t helping patients identify breast implant illness.

“There is no test for breast implant illness and it’s being minimized by plastic surgery associations and some plastic surgeons in order to continue to sell breast implants. Many women suffering from breast implant illness are misdiagnosed and mistreated for diseases that have similar symptoms and have been repeatedly told their breast implants are not causing their symptoms,” Daruda wrote on her website.

Facebook hid the group, alleging that Daruda’s community was spreading medical misinformation.

Daruda’s group has provided women with a community to share their stories, post their before-and-after photos (oftentimes with the same lighting, same clothes, and no makeup or filters used), and communicate with one another on how to move forward. Though the photos showcasing before and after breast implant removal are anecdotal evidence, it’s notable just how much healthier and more vibrant the women look post-explant.

In the height of the implant recall scandals, women who sought out Daruda’s group actually had difficulty finding it online. CBS reported that 2019 marked the third year in a row that Facebook hid the group, alleging that Daruda’s community was spreading medical misinformation. If this was all just medical misinformation, it’s a pretty astounding coincidence that so many women experienced serious and lengthy complications during the time they had their implants.

Closing Thoughts

Not every woman who gets breast implants will fall ill, but the fact that so many have should at least make us a bit wary. Beyond embracing our natural beauty and learning to love what we were born with, there are more “natural” surgeries if you’re still itching to go up a couple of cup sizes, like fat transfer breast augmentation which uses liposuction technology to remove fat from one part of your body and inject it for a smaller increase in your own breast size.

In the end, it’s ultimately up to you to weigh the pros and cons of what cosmetic and plastic surgery procedures you’d like to have, if any, but with growing concerns of severe complications and cancer you have to ask yourself: are the implants really worth it? 

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