Women around the country say their breast implants are making them sick, and a Maryland woman is sharing her story to try to help others who may still be searching for a diagnosis.
More than 400,000 people get breast implants each year. Some do it to look better, and others choose reconstructive surgery because of breast cancer.
Amy Creamer got breast implants for her 30th birthday.
“I just wanted to look more feminine and I wanted to feel better about myself,” she said.
She was happy with the results, but over the past decade, her health started to suffer, and the symptoms became difficult to ignore.
“I just wasn't feeling like myself,” she said.
She described brain fog, depression, anxiety and hair loss.
Doctors ran tests but couldn't pinpoint the problem. Then someone asked, “’Have you ever considered that your breast implants could be contributing to your symptoms,’” Creamer said.
She found a Facebook group with thousands of women sharing stories strikingly similar to hers — all were sick and all had breast implants.
“The more I was reading about it, the more I was like, ‘This is me, this is my life and what am I doing to myself?’” she said.
The condition is called "breast implant illness," where the body's immune system reacts to the implants leading to symptoms like mental confusion, debilitating pain, fatigue and hair loss. There's no science to support it yet, but for women like Creamer, it certainly feels real.
The Food and Drug Administration took notice, holding hearings on the safety of breast implants and the potential link to illnesses. This is still under investigation.
“When patients ask about breast implant illness, I just have to explain that it's a small percentage of women that seem to get it,” plastic surgeon Dr. Christopher Hess said. “We don't know what it is. I take out the implants and capsules, and most of them get better.”
There are different methods for removing breast implants, but Hess believes it's very important to remove the capsule surrounding the implant for the best result.
He said he has seen an increase in the number of women who want their implants out.
“I probably do twice as many removals as I do augmentations,” Hess said.
Creamer had her implants removed in January and said she's finally feeling like herself again. The fog has lifted, and the pain is gone.
“And honestly, my scars are going to serve as a reminder that I need to love myself the way I am,” she said.
The FDA said while it doesn’t have definitive evidence demonstrating breast implants cause the symptoms, current evidence supports that some women experience systemic symptoms that may resolve when their breast implants are removed.