Venus Williams: The Disease That Almost Took Away Her Joy

…at the same time I’ve had to come to accept what I’m going through.”


Williams said she’s glad to finally have an explanation for her mysterious, debilitating symptoms.

“It’s a huge relief because as an athlete everything is physical for me — everything is being fit and being in shape,” she said. “I think the best thing that could have happened for me this summer was to feel worse so I could feel better. Sjogren’s is something you live with your whole life. I feel like I can get better and move on.”

Williams said she “absolutely” plans to return to tennis. And she stayed true to that. Venus captured the 2015 ASB Classic title with a memorable three-set win over top seed Caroline Wozniacki.

The win avenged her defeat in last year’s thrilling final to Serbia’s Ana Ivanovic as the former World No. 1 claimed the 46th title of her legendary career.

Williams’ sister and fellow tennis pro Serena had a health scare in March, when she was diagnosed with pulmonary embolism — a blood clot in her lungs.

“Serena’s conditions helped me to feel a new life on life in itself,” Williams said. “So this, right now, I think will help me to feel grateful for everything that I have. And at the same time it makes me want to get up and fight harder every single day.”

Sjogren’s Disease: What You Need To Know

Who is most affected? 9 out of 10 people with this chronic autoimmune disease are women. The syndrome is most common after age 40, but can strike people of any age, including kids.

How is it diagnosed and treated? Sjogren’s syndrome is often misdiagnosed or overlooked because it can mimic other conditions. Many patients, like Williams, have symptoms for several years before getting a diagnosis. There’s no one test for the syndrome, but an international panel of experts developed diagnostic criteria that include evaluating dryness symptoms, such as checking the eyes’ level of tear production and how much saliva the mouth produces. There are also several blood tests that doctors may use.

While Sjogren’s has no cure, there are treatments that make symptoms more manageable: Artificial tears and saliva stimulants can ease dryness; anti-inflammatory drugs can reduce joint and muscle inflammation; and certain drugs can help control the overactive immune response.

If you are experiencing symptoms of the disease, including unexplained numbness, fatigue or swelling, be sure to contact a doctor immediately.


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