American tennis superstar Venus Williams made headlines Tuesday after confidential medical information stored in the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) database was made public by Russian hackers. The seven-time Grand Slam singles champion announced in 2011 that she suffers from Sjogren's syndrome, a long-term autoimmune disease that can decrease energy and had received treatment.
Williams, who competed at the Rio Olympics, was granted exceptions by the International Tennis Federation (ITF) for triamcinolone, prednisone, formoterol and prednisolone for periods between 2010 to 2013. "Therapeutic Use Exemptions" (TUEs) are granted "when serious medical conditions have occurred," and are approved by independent doctors.
"I was disappointed to learn today that my private, medical data has been compromised by hackers and published without my permission," Williams said in a statement. "I have followed the rules established under the Tennis Anti-Doping Program in applying for, and being granted, 'therapeutic use exemption.'"
Williams is among the roughly 1.3 million Americans with Sjogren's syndrome, which is pronounced SHOW-grens.
The Mayo Clinic defines it as "a disorder of your immune system identified by its two most common symptoms — dry eyes and a dry mouth. It states: "Sjogren's syndrome often accompanies other immune system disorders, such as rheumatoid arthritis and lupus. In Sjogren's syndrome, the mucous membranes and moisture-secreting glands of your eyes and mouth are usually affected first — resulting in decreased production of tears and saliva. Although you can develop Sjogren's syndrome at any age, most people are older than 40 at the time of diagnosis. The condition is much more common in women. Treatment focuses on relieving symptoms."
Some of the symptoms include skin dryness, blurred vision, fatigue, joint and muscle pain, and tingling in the arms and legs.
Williams, who turned 36 in June, is not the only female athlete with SS. Shannon Boxx, a former member of the United States women's national soccer team, also suffers from the disorder. "Dancing with the Stars" judge Carrie Ann Inaba also has SS and serves as a spokesperson for the Sjogren Syndrome Foundation.
There is no cure for Sjogren's syndrome but there is treatment. Those who have SS face an increased risk of lymphoma.