Saturday, 3 September 2011

Venus Williams Battles Sjögren's Syndrome

Tennis ace Venus Williams pulled out of the US Open yesterday due to a battle with her toughest opponent yet, an energy-zapping auto immune disease that has left her so weak that she can barely raise her arms. “I enjoyed playing my first match here, and wish I could continue but right now I am unable to," Williams said in a statement, reported by the Associated Press. "I am thankful I finally have a diagnosis and am now focused on getting better and returning to the court soon."

The seven-time Grand Slam champion has been diagnosed with Sjögren's syndrome. Up to four million Americans are living with this chronic condition, which can spark extreme fatigue, joint pain, and increased risk for developing lymphoma, a form of cancer, or other serious complications. Like many people with Sjögren's, Williams suffered from symptoms for years without knowing what was wrong, but hopes that the treatments she’s now receiving will take effect within three to six months.

What is Sjögren's syndrome? Sjögren's syndrome (pronounced SHOW-grins) is one of the most prevalent autoimmune diseases. It’s a chronic condition in which the person’s white blood cells attack the body’s moisture-producing glands. The syndrome often strikes in tandem with other autoimmune conditions, including rheumatoid arthritis and lupus (a disease marked by chronic inflammation of organs and a butterfly rash across the nose).

What are the symptoms? The two classic hallmarks of Sjögren's syndrome are dry eyes that feel itchy or gritty, as if there’s sand in them, and a dry cottony mouth that makes it hard to swallow. Other symptoms include joint pain, swelling or stiffness, swollen salivary glands (particularly the ones behind the jaw and in front of the ears), dry nose or nosebleeds, heartburn, brain fog (trouble concentrating or remembering), tooth decay, abnormal liver function, numbness or tingling in the hands and feet, extreme fatigue, skin rashes, vaginal dryness, persistent bronchitis, pneumonia or lung disease, reports the Sjögren's Syndrome Foundation.

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