A Houston woman believes she suffered from breast implant illness (BII).
Melissa Lima, who was once married to former Houston Astro Jose Lima, first got breast implants in 2002. She said she was self-conscious about the size of her breasts.
“It was the early 2000s, and it was all about, you know, the Baywatch look. With the big boobs, the small butt, and the tiny waist,” Lima recalled.
In 2005, she had the implants replaced with a smaller set. Both times, she said she went to reputable board-certified surgeons.
She started feeling sick in the early 2000s but never knew why.
“The end of 2019 is when I really, really, really got sick,” the mother of two said.
Her face became extremely swollen, and so did her feet. She could not fit them in shoes. She got rashes that would turn into abscesses. Lima documented her symptoms in photos.
“Just the overall depression, anxiety, and brain fog,” Lima said. “Like, I couldn’t work. I couldn’t think to work. I’d call in sick all the time. I was telling my boss like, ‘I don’t know what it is, but I can’t even concentrate or have any interest in getting my schedule together.'”
She went to doctor after doctor looking for answers but said none could ever pinpoint what it was.
“No significant, like alarming, ‘This is what is going on. You need to take care of it,'” Lima said.
One of Lima’s friends saw a social media influencer post a video about breast implant illness. She started researching it and thought she likely suffered from the same.
Lima got in touch with Dr. Charles Polsen, a plastic surgeon in League City, and he set up a time to take them out in October 2020.
Polsen said an explant surgery is not uncommon for him. Over the last few years, he has started doing more explants than implants.
“Patients are coming to me with symptoms that their doctors can’t explain otherwise,” he said. “They are largely non-descript symptoms. They range from fatigue, to joint pain, to inflammation, to hair loss, and they don’t have any other explanation other than they relate it to their implants.”
He called it a diagnosis of exclusion, although it is not a formal medical diagnosis, and there is no way to determine if someone has it.
The National Library of Medicine reports that more than 4 million women across the globe have augmented breasts, yet BII is still being studied. There is not much research to explain who gets it and why.
“We are putting in about 300,000 implants a year in the US alone, so even if 1 to 2% of people are having a problem, that’s a large number of people,” Polsen said.
Immediately after waking up from the anesthesia from her explant surgery, Lima said she saw and felt a change. She has continued taking the thyroid medication she was prescribed prior to the surgery but has gotten off the anti-depressants and anti-anxiety medications.
“I would say in about half of them, we see changes within the first week, but in the other half, it takes several weeks before we start noticing an improvement,” Polsen said.
The implant Polsen removed from Lima’s right breast was brown with black floating particles inside. She has not had it tested to determine what it is.
Polsen said that’s uncommon.
Lima hopes her journey may provide answers to other women suffering without answers.
Neither she nor Polsen want to discourage women from getting implants.
“I’d never want to discourage someone from doing something that they want to do just because it happened to me,” Lima explained. “There are women that this will never happen to, so I don’t want to say breast implants are bad. They’re just bad for me.”