Michelle Visage opens up about Breast Implant Illness, but what is it?

Michelle Visage has opened up about her secret health battle which she attributes to breast implant surgery [Photo: Getty]

Michelle Visage has opened up about the secret health battle she believes was caused by her breast implants.

The ‘Strictly Come Dancing’ contestant has been dealing with a number of health issues, which has led to her hair falling out in clumps and resulted in her having serious panic attacks.

The 51-year-old was diagnosed with Hashimoto's disease, an autoimmune disease in which the thyroid gland is gradually destroyed and can cause symptoms including weight gain, depression and general pain. 

But the ‘RuPaul's Drag Race UK’ judge was convinced that a number of the unexplained symptoms she has been experiencing were down to the breast implant surgery she had at 21 and a condition know as Breast Implant Illness (BII).

My skin was crackly dry and my hair was falling out in clumps. I was also having hardcore panic attacks,” she said of her recent health battles.

“My journey goes back to me getting breast implants at the age of 21. My body couldn't fight off the attacker because it was there 24 hours a day, seven days a week.”

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The TV personality revealed that she has since got them removed and says her symptoms have improved.

“After 30 years of having breast implants and 20 years of suffering with Hashimoto's, not one doctor told me what it could be.

“So I found a Facebook group where over 50,000 women who had the same symptoms from their breast implants and started a documentary on my journey with Breast Implant Illness, before getting them removed.

“Since having them removed, the thyroid nodule is going down, which is amazing.”

Visage is not the only high-profile person to open up about potential adverse effects of breast implants. Fitness influencer Maria Kang recently hit headlines after sharing her decision to get her breast implants removed.

In a candid Facebook post, the mum of three admitted she had decided to undergo implant removal – known as a breast explant surgery – after experiencing physical symptoms such as chest pain and heart palpitations.

She opened up more about these symptoms in a later post, saying it made it “unbearable to function”.

And Crystal Hefner, wife of Playboy mogul Hugh Hefner, has previously spoken of how she was left bedridden after reacting to her implants.

But what exactly is Breast Implant Illness, and what are the symptoms?

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Breast Implant Illness is not a medically recognised condition but experts are calling for more research into the potential symptoms [Photo: Getty]

What is Breast Implant Illness?

According to the NHS, Breast Implant Illness is a condition that consists of a very broad range of nonspecific symptoms such as hair loss, brain fog, general fatigue and bowel problems.

Though not an official medical diagnosis BAAPS say that a number of women who have had breast implants believe certain symptoms they are experiencing can be attributed to the presence of their implants.

And earlier this year BAAPS claimed women having breast implants should be made aware about the illness.

Though there is little scientific evidence about the existence of the condition, which is said to cause fatigue and chronic pain, anecdotal evidence from women who say they have returned to full health after having their implants removed suggests otherwise.

A number of women told the ‘Victoria Derbyshire programme’ they experienced complications associated with their breast implants, which they had not been warned about.

And according to BAAPS one Facebook group alone has more than 50,000 members who report symptoms of BII.

Further figures reveal that between 2014 and May 2019 the UK’s Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) received 1,586 Adverse Incident Reports for breast implants between 2014 and May 2019, prompting experts to call for more research into the condition.

The drive for more research came following an investigation by Channel 4’s Dispatches who spoke to breast implant patients as well as a surgeon who has performed 3,000 operations to remove implants and said almost everyone felt better as a result.

A MHRA spokesperson told Guardian: “I think it’s entirely reasonable that book should be opened again now, and we and our advisory group are already looking at the evidence around this and we would be eager to learn more from patients, particularly about their experiences in this area.”

In the mean time what should women do if they feel they are suffering from BII?

BAAPS advises that anyone experiencing symptoms they feel might be related to their implants should see a doctor.

“It is important to bear in mind that your symptoms might not be related to the implants, and that other medical investigations should not be overlooked or ignored,” they add.