Venus Williams, one of the most exciting female athletes in recent history, was forced to pull out of the 2011 U.S. Tennis Open due to her recent diagnosis of Sjogren's syndrome.
Her statement voiced her usual positive, appreciative attitude: "I enjoyed playing my first match here and wish I could continue, but right now I am unable to.”
Williams added, “I am thankful I finally have a diagnosis and am now focused on getting better and returning to the court soon."
Jack Newman, Master Tennis Professional and coach of many elite players at the Austin Tennis Academy said, "Most people are unaware of how finely tuned a professional tennis athlete's body has to be to perform at the highest levels. That Venus Williams has been able to be a Grand Slam champion level athlete is a testament to her drive and motivation.'
"Athletes at this level are like finely tuned race cars, any small change in diet, exercise and training program can result in a decrease or increase in performance. Both Novak Djokivic and Marty Fish are two recent examples of players tightening up their fitness and nutrition to achieve that final level of performance that brings them into contention for a Grand Slam," said Newman.
He concludes with, "Venus and her sister changed the game of women's tennis by adding strength, speed and power that wasn't part of the women's game before they arrived on the scene. We wish her well during her time away from the competitive courts and look forward to her return."
What is Sjogren's syndrome?
Sjogren's Syndrome is a difficult to diagnose chronic disorder that occurs when a person's immune system, for reasons unknown, attacks and renders moisture-producing glands ineffective. These targeted glands include salivary glands in the mouth, and tear-producing glands in the eyes. Bowel, lungs and other organs may also be affected by a lesser degree by the syndrome.
Interestingly, 90 percent of the four million Americans with Sjogren's syndrome are women. This staggering number of four million patients makes the syndrome one of the most prevalent in its category of autoimmune disorders.
Symptoms of Sjogren's Syndrome Include:
- Extremely fatigued
- Enlarged glands at the top of the jaw
- Pain in muscles and joints
- Dry throat and mouth
- Less taste sense
- Difficulty with speech
- More cavities
- Hoarse voice with a dry cough
- Difficulty swallowing and chewing
- Unusually dry eyes
- Gritty-feeling eyes
- Redness in the eyes
- Burning of the eyes
Unusual and not always present symptoms of Sjorgren's syndrome include:
- Gastrointestinal issues
- Inflammation in the liver, pancreas, kidneys or lungs
- Lymphatic tissue cancer
- Skin rashes
- Confusion or memory loss
- Thyroid gland abnormalities
- Neuropathy (Lack of circulation in hands and feet)
How is Sjogren's Syndrome Diagnosed?
Fifty percent of the patients have primary Sjogren's syndrome. This form of the disease stands alone and isn't accompanied by other autoimmune illnesses. The other 50 percent have secondary Sjogren's syndrome, which accompanies other similar diseases like rheumatoid arthritis, vasculitis, systemic lupus.
Primary Sjogren's syndrome is diagnosed by an initial clinical observation of dry eyes. Once this is observed, lab tests can be performed to verify that this dryness is caused by an autoimmune mechanism. An inner lip biopsy can also verify that the inflammation causing damage to the salivary glands is Sjogren's syndrome.
In secondary Sjogren's syndrome, the diagnosis comes after a patient who already has an autoimmune disease develops dry eyes and/or mouth.
Treatment for Sjogren's syndrome
There is not a cure for this syndrome, but there are treatments to minimize symptoms and improve a patient's quality of life. The goals for Sjogren's syndrome treatment are always minimizing discomfort and harmful effects of dryness to organs.
Eye Moisture Enhancement-Artificial tears are used to minimize dryness in the eyes, but when the eye isn't responding, sometimes surgery is necessary.
Improved Oral Hygiene-There are toothpastes and gels designed for people with a dry mouth. These products contain low levels of peroxide and hopefully produce an antibacterial reaction to minimize cavity occurrences.
Proper Hydration-Due to dryness, constantly hydrating the body is essential to avoid more debilitating symptoms.
When internal organs are being affected, high doses of immunosuppressive medications, including prednisone and chemotherapy-like medicine, may be prescribed. Acetaminophen like Tylenol or nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs like Aleve and Motrin can be taken to reduce joint and muscle pain.
Diuretic-like medicines that deplete body fluids should not be used in these patients.
Managed Exercise Program
A guided exercise program will probably be recommended. If properly managed, the patient can hopefully overcome the fatigue and muscle pain while maintaining flexibility and gaining strength.