A Florida woman who became seriously ill discovered that her condition was caused by mold growing inside her breast implants.
Anne Ziegenhorn of Shalimar, Florida, said she first began experiencing symptoms in 2011, ABC affiliate WEAR reports. The woman, who had never dealt with any serious health issues in the past, suddenly gained weight, began losing her vision, and experienced severe pain.
Her mental functioning also deteriorated to the point where she began to wonder whether she had Alzheimer's disease.
After several misdiagnoses, Ziegenhorn finally discovered what the problem was when Dr. Susan Kolb, a breast implant expert and author of the book "The Naked Truth About Breast Implants," told her that her illness was caused by mold that had grown inside her implants.
Ziegenhorn had the moldy implants removed two years after first becoming ill. The woman, who keeps a video of the mold-filled implants that were taken out of her body on her smartphone, said the operation might have saved her life.
"I felt like that was it; I was going to die; the doctors were going to let me die," she told WEAR about her condition before the diagnosis.
Kolb said saline breast implants can cause a variety of serious health problems for women, with up to 30 percent of patients experiencing severe reactions.
"My experience in doing this for 30 years is that eventually everybody will become ill from their breast implants, unless they die from something sooner," she said.
The doctor explained that many patients become ill from mold that grows inside the implants due to defective valves, while others may be sensitive to the cosmetic devices' silicone shells. She recommends that women have their implants changed once every eight to 15 years to prevent these issues.
Since discovering the cause of her condition, Ziegenhorn has spoken with others who have suffered similar symptoms. Together, they formed "The Implant Truth Survivors Committee" to raise awareness of the health risks surrounding breast implants and to urge the U.S. Food and Drug Administration to take action.
"I literally willed myself to live and willed myself to get this message out here," Ziegenhorn said. "This is my purpose; this is why I'm here."
She added that her campaign to raise awareness of the issue might meet some resistance.
"It's not a story a multi-billion dollar industry wants to get out," she said.
The number of breast augmentations in the U.S. increased 35 percent between 2000 and 2014, according to statistics published by the American Society of Plastic Surgeons.