Celebrities With Sjogrens Syndrome: Venus Williams, Nina Rawls, Shannon Boxx





What is Sjogren’s Syndrome? How common is it? What are the clues that a person may have this condition? And who of our favorite famous people are living with the condition?

According to the NHS website (nhs.uk), Sjogren’s syndrome is an autoimmune disorder whereby a person’s immune system, instead of protecting the body from illness or infection, attacks said person’s glands that secrete fluid, such as the tear and saliva. This reduces “the production of tears and saliva, causing the main symptoms of Sjögren’s syndrome, which are dry eyes and dry mouth”.

Sjogren’s syndrome is the third most common rheumatic autoimmune disorder behind only rheumatoid arthritis (RA) and systemic lupus erythematosus according to wikipedia. There is no definitive data on its prevalence but some reports state that the condition affects up to 3% of the population. According to the Sjogren Syndrome Foundation, as many as 4 million Americans are living with this disease.

Now that you know more about the disease, check out our list of celebrities with Sjogrens syndrome which begins with:

Venus Williams, tennis superstar. IN 2011, Venus Williams disclosed that she has Sjogren’s syndrome when she withdraw from the US Open and issued the following statement:

I’m really disappointed to have to withdraw from this year’s U.S. Open. I have recently been diagnosed with Sjögren’s syndrome, an autoimmune disease which is an ongoing medical condition that affects my energy level and causes fatigue and joint pain. I enjoyed playing my first match here and wish I could continue, but right now I am unable to. I am thankful I finally have a diagnosis and am now focused on getting better and returning to the court soon.

Venus tells us more about her condition in this enlightening sit-down interview with Good Morning America. Watch:


From the interview, we learn that:

  • She had issues with Sjogren’s syndrome for a while but it took years before she was properly diagnosed with the disease.
  • That it takes an average of 6.5 years for people to get diagnosed.
  • For many years, no matter how much she trained, she never had stamina.
  • Years ago, she felt like she’s getting enough air and was diagnosed with exercise-induced ashtma but her medicines never worked.
  • Her symptoms include joint pain, swelling of hands, dry eyes, dry mouth, lost feel hands, swelling, numbness, fatigue, lack of energy, feeling like she has a cold but actually don’t have one, and feeling beat-up.
  • Huge relief for her to finally get the right diagnosis for her condition. Good news for her is that she now knows what is happening after spending years of not knowing.
  • Disease can’t be cured but can be treated. Sjogren’s is something that people will live with their whole life.
  • Withdrew from the U.S. Open because it’s taking effort to lift her arms.

Nina Rawls, widow of singer Lou Rawls. Like Venus, Nina revealed that she has Sjogren’s in 2011. Here’s what she says about her condition:

After years of misdiagnosis, it was a relief to finally have an answer to the horrible symptoms. Although I had not planned on revealing my diagnosis, I realize that we need to bring as much awareness to the disease as we can. I’m so happy that Venus has started to bring this disease to the forefront. I hope to do the same.

Ironically, I was motivated to go to my doctor to be tested from watching Toni Braxton discuss her Lupus symptoms on the WE Channel’s “Braxton Family Values” one afternoon. From that diagnosis my rheumatologist tested for Sjogren’s. I had be hospitalized several times over the last couple of years and needed very badly to have an answer…why.

With my finding, I am now an advocate for Sjogren’s syndrome awareness, early diagnosis and treatment. I’m learning that although there is no cure for the syndrome, there are treatments that can greatly improve my troubling symptoms and will prevent further complications. I’m hoping a greater awareness of the syndrome will push others to be more pro-active in talking with their doctors and dentists about their symptoms and gain potential treatment options.

Shannon Boxx, football/soccer Olympic gold medalist. We mentioned Shannon in our earlier post Celebrities with Lupus, but we are including her in this list because she was also diagnosed with Sjogren’s syndrome.

In a 2012 interview with CNN, she tells us how Sjogren’s is affecting her life:

Sjogren’s Syndrome is an autoimmune in which your body attacks your moisture-producing glands. I deal with fatigue and joint pain just like with lupus, but it also affects my skin, my eyes and my mouth. I have to regularly use eye drops, drink lots of water and get regular checkups for both my eyes and my teeth. Keeping my inflammation down throughout my body is my biggest concern.

How is she dealing with her condition? She tells us via CNN:

As an elite athlete, it is my job to maintain a high fitness level, as well as sustain a strong mentality. Now add in a disease where my main symptoms are extreme fatigue and joint pain, and that standard becomes a little bit more difficult to maintain.

I am very fortunate that I have finally found a medicine that helps control my symptoms, but a few years ago that wasn’t the case.

I remember in 2010 going to training sessions completely exhausted and my knees throbbing from all my joint pain. I remember willing myself through those training sessions and then getting home and lying on the couch the rest of the day.

Mentally, I was exhausted because I was trying to figure out the right medicines to use; I was dealing with side effects from those medicines and I was keeping it a secret from my teammates.

On the positive side, it has made me so much stronger as a person and as an athlete. I have the mentality that this disease is not going to beat me. I may have a bad day, but it won’t stop me from trying again the next day.

Wondering whether your dry eyes or mouth is a symptom of Sjogren’s syndrome? These screening questions from the NHS could help you find out:

  • Have you had daily, persistent, troublesome dry eyes for more than three months?
  • Do you keep having a sensation of grit in your eye?
  • Do you need to use eye drops containing tear substitutes more than three times a day?
  • Have you had a daily feeling of dry mouth for more than three months?
  • Do you keep getting swollen salivary glands (located between your jaw and your ears)?
  • Do you frequently drink liquids to help you swallow food?

If your response to most of the questions above is “yes”, it is possible that you have Sjogren’s syndrome and should consult a health professional for further tests.