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How to tell if your breast implants are, in fact, poisoning you

Charlotte Hilton Andersen is the author of the book The Great Fitness Experiment: One Year of Trying Everything and runs the popular health and fitness website of the same name, where she tries out a new workout every month, specializing...

Toxic breast implants are more common than you think

Breast enhancements are the most popular plastic surgery in America today, but now a strange, debilitating illness is striking terror in the hearts (breasts?) of everyone who has them.

Playboy playmate-turned-official-missus Crystal Hefner recently had her 34D breast implants removed. The reason? A mysterious condition called "breast implant illness" that she says made her silicone implants slowly poison her for eight years.

At first, she loved her new curvaceous look, but after a few years she began to feel generally unwell, developing “intolerance to foods and beverages, unexplained back pain, constant neck and shoulder pain, cognitive dysfunction (brain fog, memory loss), stunted hair growth, incapacitating fatigue, burning bladder pain, low immunity, recurring infections and problems with [her] thyroid and adrenals,” according to her Facebook post.

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Eventually, she says she became allergic to almost every food, had intolerable pain and was diagnosed with Lyme disease. "The fatigue was so severe that I could barely leave the house or drive," she wrote. But she started to notice a common theme in comments when she posted about her health problems. Women were sharing that their shockingly similar symptoms were the results of toxic breast implants, not a tick bite. She found an online support group for women with breast implant illness, and found her symptoms matched theirs. It didn't take long after that before the 30-year-old opted to have her implants surgically removed.

Explantation, a surgery by which women have their implants removed, is more common than you think, says Bonnie Baldwin, M.D., a board-certified plastic surgeon. Whether or not the symptoms add up to an actual illness (the condition isn't officially recognized yet), she says women have many reasons for removing their implants. Some women, she says, simply want them removed because like naturally large breasts, they can cause strain on the neck and shoulders, continual pain in the upper back and difficulty with posture.

For others, Baldwin points out it's a trend thing, with some women saying they no longer want the breast fullness or shape that was en vogue during the time they got their implants. Case in point: Victoria Beckham confirmed that she's had implants removed to reduce her breast size not once, but twice, in an effort to shed her "unnatural" sexpot Spice Girls image.

Still others will have their implants removed because they feel they are causing symptoms like joint aches, fatigue, arthritis and other health conditions, like Hefner, Baldwin says.

Regardless of the reasoning, all women with implants may have to eventually consider removal, as according to the National Institutes of Health, "breast implants are not lifetime devices. The longer you have breast implants, the more likely it is that complications will occur and you will need to have them removed."

So does this mean women should be terrified to go under the knife or that the small or saggy-boobed among us just need to accept our fate? Not necessarily, Baldwin says. While accepting your body and loving it is always a good thing, women these days do have other options like saline-filled implants, breast lift procedures that don't use implants and fat-transfer procedures.

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Hefner, however, doesn't regret her choice one bit. "Instantly I noticed my neck and shoulder pain was gone and I could breathe much better," she wrote. "I know I won’t feel 100 percent overnight. My implants took eight years to make me this sick, so I know it will take time to feel better. I also have other illnesses to address, but with the toxic bags removed, my immune system can focus on what it needs to."

For more information, check out this site and support group for healing Breast Implant Illness.

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