When recent Muscle & Fitness Hers cover model Karen McDougal opted for breast augmentation surgery in 1996, her doctor didn’t mention any risks beyond a small chance of capsular contraction, a complication that can occur when scar tissue builds up. McDougal had cautiously chosen saline implants. “My doctor said, ‘You have the safe ones—they’re just water. They’ll last you a lifetime.’”

But after about seven years, McDougal’s health started to deteriorate. She was sick for weeks at a time. Her vision became blurry, and the whites of her eyes turned pink. As time went on, she developed migraines and noise sensitivity so severe she couldn’t tolerate the sound of her own voice, and experienced frequent blackouts as well as Raynaud’s disease, a circulation problem that causes the tips of your fingers to turn white and numb. Her doctors diagnosed depleted hormones and thyroid issues, but no matter how many specialists she went to, no one could explain what was wrong. “No one had any answers,” she says. “I literally felt like I was dying.”

McDougal never suspected her implants were the problem—when a friend confided that his wife was having her implants removedbecause they were making her sick, she rolled her eyes. But as her symptoms progressed, she began looking online and discovered other women with symptoms similar to hers, including chronic fatigue, insomnia, persistent infections, rashes, and more, all supposedly caused by the body rejecting their implants.