Venus Williams Leaves US Open. 10 Things You Should Know About Sjogren’s Syndrome

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It’s not been a good year healthwise for the Williams sisters. First, Serena is sidelined with surgery after a pulmonary embolism, and now Venus, 31, has pulled out of the US Open with a diagnosis of Sjögren’s Syndrome. Williams, who boasts 21 Grand Slam titles,  had won her first match of the Open on Monday, beating Vesna Dolonts 6-4, 6-3 in the first round. She was supposed to face 22nd-seeded Sabine Lisicki today however Williams, instead, released a statement, saying:

“I enjoyed playing my first match here and wish I could continue but right now I am unable to… I am thankful I finally have a diagnosis and am now focused on getting better and returning to the court soon.”

1. Sjögren’s Syndrome, which is pronounced SHOW-grens, is an autoimmune disease that mainly affects the salivary glands and tear ducts and other moisture-producing glands.  It can also occur with other autoimmune disease such as rheumatoid arthritis and lupus. An autoimmune disease is one where the body’s infection fighting cells mistakenly starts to fight the body’s healthy cells instead.

2. Sjögren’s syndrome affects 1-4 million people in the United States.

3. Most people are more than 40 years old at the time of diagnosis.

4. Women are 9 times more likely to have Sjögren’s syndrome than men.

5. The main symptoms are dry eyes and mouth.

6. Sjögren’s syndrome also can affect other parts of the body, including the skin, joints, lungs, kidneys, blood vessels, digestive organs, and nerves. Symptoms can include:

  • Dry skin
  • Skin rashes
  • Chronic dry cough
  • Thyroid problems
  • Joint and muscle pain
  • Vaginal dryness
  • Numbness and tingling in the arms and legs.

7. Sjögren’s can also make you very tired.

8. There is no known cure for Sjögren’s syndrome nor is there a specific treatment to restore gland secretion.

9. Treatment is generally symptomatic and supportive. Moisture replacement therapies may ease the symptoms of dryness.

10. Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) may be used to treat musculoskeletal symptoms. For individuals with severe complications, corticosteroids or immunosuppressive drugs may be prescribed.

This excellent picture comes from the Sjogren’s Syndrome Foundation.

For more information about Sjögren’s Syndrome, click here to go to the Resounding Health Casebook on the topic.

For a video on the story, you can go to ESPN.

Michele R. Berman, M.D. was Clinical Director of The Pediatric Center, a private practice on Capitol Hill in Washington, D.C. from 1988-2000, and was named Outstanding Washington Physician by Washingtonian Magazine in 1999. She was a medical internet pioneer having established one of the first medical practice websites in 1997. Dr. Berman also authored a monthly column for Washington Parent Magazine.

1 Comment

  1. Lila

    September 26, 2011 at 12:27 pm

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