Image: WSPD Local News
In 1998, Anna Ziegenhorn began experiencing some worrying symptoms that continued on and off for over 10 years. Her condition took a turn for the worse in 2011, starting with blurred vision and almost 10kg of unexplained weight gain.
“I went eight months unable to speak and just the thought of speaking caused excruciating pain,” she wrote on her blog. Ziegenhorn also endured headaches, bruising, lesions and lethargy.
“I felt like that was it, I was gonna die, and the doctors were gonna let me die,” she told WHAM 13 news recently.
In late 2013, Ziegenhorn requested the films from her past few mammograms, where she noticed something on her right breast getting progressivly worse each year.
Watch: Studio 10 demonstrates how to check your breasts for lumps. (Post continues after video.)
“I studied my films and thought they looked like a petrie dish in biochemistry,” she recalled.
Ziegenhorn immediately sent them to breast implant specialist Dr Susan Kolb, who determined that Ziegenhorn’s silicone implants had actually begun growing mould inside her body.
“My implant, which was full of mold, leaked for years then completely ruptured. All of the mouldy water spread through my body, all 300-320 cubic centremetres of it,” she said.
Tellingly, her early symptoms had presented within six months of her switching from silicone to saline breast implants in 1998.
After being placed on antifungal and antibiotics, Ziegenhorn reported that within 24 hours she could speak again, her sores started to heal and within five days she had lost almost five kilograms. She then underwent emergency surgery to remove the implants.
While it's still not clear how Ziegenhorn's implants developed so much mould, Dr Kolb told WHAM 13 that in other similar cases it's caused by a defective valve in the implant itself. In Ziegenhorn's case, her symptoms were caused by both the mould and silicone sickness.
Amanda Gilcrease told WHAM 13 of her similar experience.
"All the neurological symptoms... the burning, numbing, stabbing, shooting, electrical shocking pains throughout my body went away immediately [after they were removed]," she said.
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On Facebook, Gilcrease shared an additional warning.
"It's much more common than people realise and people need to know that they are not safe even if they get them changed out every eight to 10 years! They are ticking time bombs from the minute they are put into your body," she wrote.
Dr Kolb, who has implants herself, says that she is not against the procedure but encourages women to replace their implants every eight to 15 years.
A spokesperson for the FDA contacted by the news station said he was not familiar with any reports of mould from saline breast implants. However the organisation's website states it's not uncommon for some women to have their implants replaced every eight to 10 years because the "longer you have breast implants, the more likely it is that complications will occur and you will need to have them removed."
Saying she is "lucky to be alive", Ziegenhorn has now started up The Implant Survivors Truth Committee, an organisation which aims to educate others about potential complications.
Have you ever heard of mould growing in breast implants?