September 2, 2011
The New York Times article: Williams Says She Struggled with Fatigue for Years
Tennis star Venus Williams just recently withdrew from the US Open tournament announcing that she has Sjogren’s Syndrome, which is an arthritis-related auto-immune disease. I heard the news on the radio when I was driving home from work last night and I immediately felt surprised and really sad. If she has been having any joint pain and fatigue similar to RA, I can’t imagine how she can continue to play tennis. Hopefully she will get on a good treatment regimen right away and that she won’t have to give it up.
In 2004 I was diagnosed with Sjögren’s myself after waking up one morning with extremely dry and inflamed eyes. It was horrible and probably the worst pain I have ever experienced in my life. My vision became blurred and I felt like I had shards of glass cutting into my eyes. The only relief I got was when I was asleep; my time awake was torture. After waiting a month to see a dry eye specialist (I fault my former rheumatologist for this), I finally got in and had tests done to try to determine what was really going on. I was scared to death that the inflammation was attacking my tear glands and that my eyes would never be normal again. Luckily, my tear glands were fine and were producing enough tears. It was my tear quality that was bad resulting from inflammation of my eyelids, also known as blepharitis. After using steroid eye drops and other drops and tedious home remedies, my eyes finally returned to “normal” after about a year of dealing with this. I have little flare-ups from time to time but thankfully my eyes have never gone back to being as bad as they once were. However, I still can’t wear contact lenses (which makes me really mad and depressed because I hate glasses).
My heart really goes out to anybody who suffers from Sjögren’s Syndrome because I know how incredibly painful and frustrating it can be, emotionally as well as physically. I hope Venus will get the care and support that she needs having this chronic disease.