Tennis superstar Venus Williams will be competing at the Rio Olympics 2016, but what many people don’t realize is that the famous athlete suffers from the autoimmune disease Sjogren’s syndrome.
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— Venus Williams (@Venuseswilliams) August 3, 2016
Venus William’s fifth Olympics will be in the upcoming Rio games, but this year’s event will be the second time Williams has competed at the international competition since being diagnosed with Sjogren’s syndrome.
When was Venus Williams’ Sjogren’s syndrome detected? Williams was actually first diagnosed with the autoimmune condition back in 2011. Her doubles partner and sister, Serena Williams, has not been diagnosed with the condition.
Venus’s fighting spirit has kept her playing tennis, but Sjogren’s syndrome has still had a severe impact on her playing ability and career. Up until 2015, both Venus and Serena dropped out of many doubles tournaments, due to Venus’s health issues.
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In fact, after being diagnosed with the condition in 2011, Venus dropped to 105th in world tennis rankings for female players. Previously, Venus had been ranked in the Top 50 since 1997 and was considered one of the world’s best players.
Venus William’s fitness level, after detection of the disease, suffered a major drop. Not only did Sjogren’s syndrome impact her game, but she also suffered a back injury in 2013. This caused Williams to take some time off to help recover and recoup her health.
Many people don’t know that Williams suffers from Sjogren’s syndrome, and most people don’t know much about Sjogren’s syndrome to begin with. What is Sjogren’s syndrome, and why would it have an effect on Williams’ tennis abilities?
What is Sjogren’s syndrome? Why Would it Have an Effect on Venus Williams’ Tennis Abilities?
Sjogren’s syndrome is an immune system disorder that primarily affects the eyes and mouth. With Sjogren’s syndrome, the immune system’s cells begin to attack tear and saliva glands, as well as mucus-secreting membranes. This causes dry eyes and a dry mouth, which are the most common symptom associated with the disease.
Both dry eyes and dry mouth can be irritating and present difficulties for sufferers of Sjogren’s syndrome, particularly when playing sports. Staying hydrated and using artificial tears to prevent vision blurring can help with symptoms.
However, Sjogren’s syndrome can actually cause many other symptoms too, including muscle pain, joint pain and stiffness, fatigue, reoccurring coughs, swollen salivary glands, and skin rashes.
For sufferers of Sjogren’s syndrome, the symptoms can be debilitating and have a major impact on their quality of life. For a tennis star like Venus, having the disease can have a huge impact on her playing ability.
Sjogren’s syndrome affects roughly four million people in the U.S. While the disease is not considered very common, it is notoriously difficult to diagnose. Since the conditions vary and are nonspecific, many sufferers can have a hard time receiving the right diagnosis.
As well, Sjogren’s syndrome is considered an “invisible illness,” as you cannot tell when someone is suffering from it. Indeed, by looking at Venus Williams, anyone would conclude that she looks healthy.
While there is no cure for Sjogren’s syndrome, Williams has begun eating a vegan diet and using exercise techniques to help fight the symptoms of the disease. While there is no research confirming that these things can help with Sjogren’s syndrome, the fact that Williams is ready to play at this year’s Olympic Games is a sign that they may have helped with her health.
So here’s hoping that Venus Williams can win at Rio Olympics 2016, despite her diagnosis of Sjogren’s syndrome.
Harrington, R., “The story behind Venus Williams’ off-court struggle,” Tech Insider, September 08, 2016, http://www.techinsider.io/venus-williams-fight-against-sjogrens-syndrome-2015-9
Sherman, R., “The Olympics give us another chance to enjoy Serena Williams’ greatness,” SB Nation, August 01, 2016, http://www.sbnation.com/2016/8/1/12174352/2016-olympics-rio-serena-williams-tennis-usa