Breast Implant Illness: Danica Patrick says breast implants were making her sick

Breast implant illness is used to describe post-implant symptoms like fatigue, chest pain, hair loss, and depression.

Emma Jones 4 minute read May 4, 2022
Danica Patrick

The "Speed Queen” says her symptoms included an irregular menstrual cycle, constant dizziness and weight gain. (Photo by Jonathan Ferrey/Getty Images for Texas Motor Speedway)

Danica Patrick, former NASCAR driver and IndyCar champion, told fans that she had her breast implants removed due to a series of negative symptoms she believed they had caused.

In an Instagram post from the weekend, Patrick explained she got the implants in November of 2014 and was initially happy with them. However, within a few years, Patrick began experiencing some not-so-great side effects that slowly became worse.

“Fast forward about three years to early 2018, and I noticed that my hair was not as healthy and was breaking off. I also gained a few pounds and had no luck losing it,” wrote Patrick.

By 2020, the “Speed Queen” says she had even more symptoms including an irregular menstrual cycle, constant dizziness and more weight gain. Medical tests indicated she was experiencing hypothyroidism, hypoglycaemia and low estrogen.

Breast implant illness (BII) is not a diagnosable medical condition, but it commonly used to describe a collection of symptoms reported by some patients in the days, months or years after receiving implants, according to the American Society for Aesthetic Plastic Surgery. These symptoms include fatigue, chest pain, hair loss, anxiety, brain fog, sleep disturbance, depression, and hormonal issues, among others.

While there is not yet a definitive link showing that getting breast implants causes these symptoms, some women who choose to remove the implants see symptoms resolve permanently. Others only experience temporary relief before the symptoms return.

Patrick wrote she tried to find other ways of addressing her symptoms, but when the interventions didn’t work she decided to have the implants removed.

“I have tried 3 drs and 6-8 levels of thyroid meds, a 90 day gut protocol, and chelation to get rid of heavy metals and up to 30 pills a day … with no resolution. I haven’t felt or looked any different,” wrote Patrick.

Immediately after waking up from the surgery where her implants were taken out, Patrick said she noticed an increase in energy and felt like she was able to take deeper breaths.

Breast implant illness

Although breast implants have not been proven to cause the various symptoms of BII, recent research indicates there may be a link between implants and the development of various autoimmune disorders.

In Canada, implants have a silicone shell and are filled with either a saline solution or a silicone gel and must receive a medical device licence from Health Canada before being approved for use. Some patients may opt for textured implants as the surface may lesson the possibility of the implant shifting or moving away from where it was placed, as opposed to smooth implants.

A study published in the Annals of Surgery followed 99,993 patients after receiving either saline or silicone breast implants. Compared to saline implants, patients with silicone implants had a higher rate of Sjögren’s syndrome (an autoimmune disorder affecting the salivary and lacrimal glands), scleroderma (autoimmune disorder affecting the connective tissues) and rheumatoid arthritis, as well as stillbirth and melanoma.

Another study also found a correlation between silicone breast implants and autoimmune disorders. Researchers compared data from 24,651 patients who had silicone breast implants to 98,604 patients without. Those with implants were more likely to be diagnosed with an autoimmune disorder. Researchers also found a correlation between implants and development of Sjögren’s syndrome, systemic sclerosis and sarcoidosis.

Breast implant-associated anaplastic large cell lymphoma

Specific types of implants have also been associated with the development of Breast implant-associated anaplastic large cell lymphoma (BIA-ALCL), a rare form of non-Hodgkin lymphoma (cancer affecting the immune system.)

In April, Health Canada released an updated safety review of the risk of developing BIA-ALCL. Macro-textured implants were associated with a 1 in 1,636 risk of developing the lymphoma, micro-textured implants were associated with a 1 in 17,627 risk, and there was no association between smooth implants and developing the condition.

Canada banned macro-textured implants in 2019 based on the risk of developing BIA-ALCL, however, does not recommend having these implants removed if no symptoms exist. Micro-textured and smooth implants are still licensed to be used.

Emma Jones is a multimedia editor with Healthing. You can reach her at emjones@postmedia.com or on Instagram and Twitter @jonesyjourn.

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