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A Mississippi woman who claims she developed “breast implant illness” just weeks after undergoing surgery said that at the height of her symptoms she even contemplated committing suicide.
“Within three months I was dealing with anxiety and depression,” Erika Rae Ritschard, a mother of three, told SWNS. “All of a sudden my heart was racing for no reason. I got a kidney infection in the summer. After that, it was constant. I had recurring yeast infections and respiratory problems. I went to the ER several times with migraines.”
Ritschard, who allegedly paid $3,800 for the procedure in 2012, told SWNS that her symptoms continued to worsen through 2017 when she dropped 40 pounds within one year.
“I was so fatigued in my body, I wasn’t able to concentrate, I thought I had ADHD and my mood swings were outrageous, the now 28-year-old told the news outlet. “My doctor sent me to a psychiatrist who said I had bipolar tendencies. I would have extreme lows and manic highs. I had brain fog and insomnia. My muscles were in so much pain that I lived on a heating pad for months.”
Ritschard said she suffered from varying body temperatures and a stabbing pain in her chest. She had developed dry patches of skin and brittle hair, but never received a diagnosis for anything.
“The doctors kept saying it was stress and healthy anxiety,” she told SWNS. “I remember an ER doctor said to me: ‘You’re the healthiest sick person we’ve ever seen.’”
Frustrated, Ritschard said she contemplated suicide “on three different occasions in 2017,” and even plotted using her husband’s leftover medication from back surgery. But things changed in November 2017, when she stumbled across a Facebook group dedicated to breast implant issues.
“One day I was typing ‘breast implant’ into Facebook and breast implant illness came up,” she told SWNS. “I was curious. The description in the group fitted with exactly what I was experiencing. I went to the website and the Instagram and found everything I needed. I felt like I was reading about myself.”
According to the National Center for Health Research, the popularity of breast implants has seen a dramatic increase in the last 20 years. While the FDA has previously alerted doctors of a rare type of cancer linked to breast implants, it says current evidence does not support a connection between the implants and connective tissue disorders or reproductive issues.
But Dr. Diana Zuckerman, president of the National Center for Health Research, said patients who experience symptoms like Ritschard’s could be dealing with an immune system response to the implants.
“Many of the symptoms that these women talk about – joint pain, mental confusion, hair falling out – are very typical of certain autoimmune diseases,” she told SWNS. “It is possible these conditions are caused by breast implants.”
Ritschard elected to have her implants removed in Feb. 2018 and said she felt her health improve “immediately.”
“All of my symptoms subsided in the first two months,” she told SWNS.