Sjogren's syndrome knocks Williams out of U.S. Open

Elite athletes like Venus Williams may be more likely to receive an earlier diagnosis.

Story highlights

  • Venus Williams played only 11 matches this season due to injuries and illness
  • As many as 4 million Americans have Sjögren's syndrome
  • Ninety percent of the people with the syndrome are women
After playing just one match, Venus Williams announced Wednesday that she is withdrawing from the U.S. Open.
The 31-year-old has had nearly every injury in the book, but she offered an unusual reason this time around: Sjögren's syndrome, a poorly understood autoimmune disorder that causes joint pain and can deplete energy levels.
Williams had played only 11 matches this season because of injuries and illness.
"I am thankful I finally have a diagnosis and am now focused on getting better and returning to the court soon," Williams said in a statement.
As many as 4 million Americans have Sjögren's syndrome (pronounced SHOW-grens), according to the Sjögren's Syndrome Foundation, making it the second most common autoimmune disease after rheumatoid arthritis, and ahead of lupus. Ninety percent of the people with the syndrome are women.
It's "a major women's health problem," says Frederick B. Vivino, M.D., associate professor of clinical medicine at the University of Pennsylvania and chief of rheumatology at Penn Presbyterian Medical Center, in Philadelphia. "A lot of patients look a lot better than they feel."
In Sjögren's, the white blood cells attack moisture-producing glands. The most common symptoms are persistent dry eyes and dry mouth, but the sy