Updated 08 November 2016

Venus Williams has Sjögren's syndrome

Reports claim that Venus Williams pulled out of the US Open after being diagnosed with Sjögren's syndrome, an autoimmune disease that can cause fatigue and joint pain.


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

What is Sjögren's syndrome?

Sjögren's syndrome is an autoimmune disorder. It's characterised by dry eyes and a dry mouth and the immune system destroys the glands that secrete tears and saliva first. It's a progressive disorder which could, if not managed correctly, eventually damage other tissues in the body, including the nervous system, kidneys, lungs, and skin.

It can develop at any age, although it's most often diagnosed after the age of 40, with women being up to nine times more likely to develop it.

Unfortunately at the moment there is no known cure and treatment focuses on relieving symptoms of the disorder. Prognosis for patients with secondary Sjögren's syndrome depends on the other autoimmune disorders that are present.

The end of Williams' career?

According to Dr John Fitzgerald, director of Clinical Rheumatology at UCLA, in rare cases, it can cause arthritis and joint pain.

Although he's not involved in treating Williams, he said, if Williams has the typical symptoms, "it does not seem life-threatening or career-ending."

After her victory Monday, Venus Williams was asked about the illness that caused her to skip tournaments this summer. She said that night she had been diagnosed, but wouldn't say with what.

"It was just energy-sucking, and I just couldn't play pro tennis," she said. "It was disappointing, because I had huge plans for this summer, of course, to improve my ranking. To miss out on all those points was definitely devastating. Just to miss so much time off tour was just disheartening. But I'm just really excited to be back."

Source: Health24, Sapa

(Health24, September 2011)

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All about Sjögren's syndrome


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Professor Asgar Ali Kalla completed his MBChB (Bachelor of Medicine and Bachelor of Surgery) degree in 1975 at the University of Cape Town and his FRCP in 2003 in London. Professor Ali Kalla is the Isaac Albow Chair of Rheumatology at the University of Cape Town and also the Head of Division of Rheumatology at Groote Schuur Hospital. He has participated in a number of clinical trials for rheumatology and is active in community outreach. Prof Ali Kalla is an expert in Arthritis for Health24.

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