Williams puts spotlight on Siogren's Syndrome

PHILADELPHIA, PA.; August 31, 2011

The tennis star announced she is pulling out of this year's U.S. Open, just 2 days after a straight-set victory over Vesna Dolontos.

However, the good-one-day-bad-the-next scenario is a familiar one to those with Sjogren's Syndrome.

Sjogren's is a chronic autoimmune disease in which a person's white blood cells attack the moisture-producing glands.

More than 4 million Americans suffer from it, with 9 out of 10 sufferers being women. It is one of the most prevalent auto immune diseases in the U.S. The disease was first identified by Dr. Henrik Sjogren in 1933.

Although the hallmark symptoms are dry eyes and dry mouth, Sjogren can affect the whole body. It can also cause trouble with other organs, such as the kidneys, gastrointestinal system, blood vessels, lungs, liver, pancreas, and even the central nervous system. Some patients also develop extreme fatigue and joint pain, and have a higher risk of developing lymphoma.

Williams pointed to part of that in her statement, saying it "affects my energy level and causes fatigue and joint pain."

In about half the patients, Sjogren's syndrom occurs alone, but in the rest, it can occur along with another autoimmunue disease, such as rheumatoid arthritis, lupus, or scleroderma.

Symptoms can remain steady, worsen, or very rarely, go into remission. Some patients only have mild symptoms, while others are severely disabled.

Getting an early diagnosis and proper treatment are important for preventing serious complications.

"I am thankful I finally have a diagnosis and am now focused on getting better and returning to the court soon," said Williams.

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