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Tennis star Venus Williams withdrew from the U.S. Open on Wednesday, citing a diagnosis of Sjögren’s syndrome, a little-known autoimmune disorder that causes fatigue and joint pain.

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It’s an autoimmune disease that is typically characterized by inflammation in the tear ducts and salivary glands. Scientists are not sure why it focuses on these tissues. Many people will have a very mild form and experience dryness of the eyes and mouth, fatigue, joint pain and myalgias [or muscle pain]. Many people will have that and nothing else. But a small proportion of people will go on to have multi–organ system disease that behaves a little more like lupus [another autoimmune disease in which the body’s own immune cells start to attack healthy tissues, particularly in the joints].

People probably have some kind of genetic predisposition — but we don’t know for sure — and some environmental factor sets off the immune system to trigger the disease. It’s not well understood why this particular person [will get diagnosed] and why now at this point in their life. Typically, patients experience hallmark symptoms like dry eyes and dry mouth. The third and fourth symptoms are fatigue and joint pain. The challenge is that moisture glands are found throughout your body and your internal body systems need moisture to operate, but patients may not feel that right away.

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There is no known cure for the disease. here are also products that people take called immunosuppresants. They suppress the immune system so it’s not so active and help suppress the disease from progressing, slowing down the syndrome. Patients can also take steroids like Prednisone for joint pain.

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