Bachelorette Clare Crawley says breast implants are making her sick, expert explains what could be happening

·5-min read
Former Bachelorette star Clare Crawley says she's getting her breast implants removed in the wake of a strange set of health issues. (Stefanie Keenan/Getty Images for Alo Yoga)
Former Bachelorette star Clare Crawley says she's getting her breast implants removed in the wake of a strange set of health issues. (Stefanie Keenan/Getty Images for Alo Yoga)

For a long time, Clare Crawley thought that her breast implants were the ticket to a perfect life. But in a recent Instagram video, the former Bachelorette star says that a constellation of health issues that may be linked to the implants has now made her realize the dangers of buying into beauty standards. "As much as I've loved having these [implants], I love my health more, I love my well-being more," Crawley said. 

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The 40-year-old, who is rumored to be engaged once again to former NFL player and Bachelorette winner Dale Moss, said that recent mammograms showed fluid behind her implants, leading doctors to suggest she may be having a reaction. "My skin has been having really bad — hives and rash all down my stomach, on my neck ... on my arms," said the California native. "My whole body is just inflamed and itchy."

Crawley said she's made the decision to remove the implants, a procedure known as "explant surgery," in hopes that some of the symptoms she's battling will resolve. "My body is fighting [the implants] and recognizes them as something obviously foreign in my body," Crawley told her followers. "My body can’t heal. My body is in fight mode constantly. It's exhausting, it’s depressing, it’s frustrating." 

As someone experiencing strange symptoms potentially linked to breast implants, Crawley is far from alone. The number of women who have come forward to report symptoms connected to their implants is high enough to have earned an official name: Breast Implant Illness (BII). In August, the Food and Drug Administration reported that it had received 2,500 reports of the condition from November 2018 to October 2019, adding to the over 1,000 it received from January 2008 to October 2018. (BII, to be clear is different from Breast Implant-Associated Lymphoma, BIA-ALCL, a type of non-Hodgkin's lymphoma that has been linked to Allergan BIOCELL implants).

While there is no way to officially diagnose BII, Dr. Tim Sayed, a board-certified plastic surgeon who performs explant surgeries, says he has no doubt that it is real. "Breast implant illness is a term given to a phenomenon where some women who have implants experience symptoms not localized to the breast," Sayed tells Yahoo Life. "So that means symptoms connected to other organs — symptoms like brain fog, fatigue, joint pain, rheumatologic types of symptomatology, GI issues, rashes, hair loss and other things." 

Sayed says he's seen the effects that removing the implants in these patients can have firsthand. "In many of these women, these are obviously symptoms that were not present before the implants were placed, and in many of these cases, symptoms improve or resolve when the implants were removed." The National Center for Health Research conducted a study on this, polling 300 women who chose explant surgery and finding that 89 percent saw an improvement in their symptoms. 

The FDA's stance on the condition — as Sayed puts it — falls in the "plausible but not proven" area. "While the FDA doesn’t have definitive evidence demonstrating breast implants cause these symptoms, the current evidence supports that some patients experience systemic symptoms that may resolve when their breast implants are removed," the organization's last update reads. "The FDA is committed to communicating information the agency receives about systemic symptoms reported by patients with breast implants."

To be sure, Sayed said that a sudden increase in cases of BII seems to be confirming some critics' beliefs that the condition may simply be psychosomatic. "Social media has obviously amplified the ability of a lot of women to share their experiences but the problem with this is the amount of FOMO that's created in the social media world," says Sayed. "And so skeptics may say, 'This is FOMO [fear of missing out].' This is women wanting to belong to a group, clinging to some hope that they're going to get better." 

Although he acknowledges that it "may be true in some of the patients," he says that explant surgery is no walk in the park — not only a difficult procedure but also one that, in the cases of those who got the implants for cosmetic reasons, takes away the very look these individuals were trying to achieve. For that reason and more, he says that doctors should be taking women like Crawley seriously and listening to their concerns.

"I think it's kind of insulting, borderline misogynistic to say women are coming forward, wanting implant removal, or having salient health improvements afterward and saying that these women are so gullible and susceptible that they'll just buy into whatever somebody says," Sayed notes. "These are smart women. They are listening to their body. They've tried everything else and nothing has worked and then we've done explant surgery on them and they've said they've gotten better. So if it's a placebo effect, it's a powerful one. But to dismiss it as that and spend no time researching it in my opinion would be irresponsible." 

It's nearly impossible to accurately say how frequently BII occurs. Some Facebook support groups contain over 100,000 members, but with over 400,000 breast implant surgeries performed each year, it seems safe to say that at this point, the reaction is rare. For more information about the symptoms and how to get help, go to BreastCancer.org

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