Game Set and Match Sjögrens

Earlier this year, we brought you news of Serena William’s  health scare after she was diagnosed with pulmonary embolism. Serena has since made a successful comeback to pro tennis, winning 18 straight matches between July and September, including titles at Stanford and Toronto, and becoming a finalist in the US Open. However, by some strange, sad twist of fate, her sister, Venus Williams, was forced to withdraw from the same tournament after being diagnosed with Sjögren’s syndrome.

Sjögren’s – a condition in which the body’s immune system attacks its own healthy tissues. It primarily affects glandular tissues – most notably the tear and saliva glands. It can result in dry eyes and a dry mouth. In addition, patients can experience muscle and joint aches and pains, as well as debilitating fatigue.

While a combination of genetic and environmental factors can lead to Sjögren’s, as with many autoimmune diseases, the onset of the condition is often preceded by an infection. It’s understandable how these symptoms might make it difficult, if not impossible, to play tennis at a high level.

I think I’ve had issues with Sjögren’s for a while. It just wasn’t diagnosed,” Williams told ABC News. “The good news for me is now I know what’s happening.”

While Sjogren’s has no cure, there are treatments that make symptoms more manageable. In addition to over the counter (OTC) eye drops and mouth preparations, prescription products are available. They include Evoxac® (cevimeline), Salagen® (pilocarpine hydrochloride) and Numoisyn™ for dry mouth and Restasis® (cyclosporine ophthalmic emulsion) and Lacrisert® (hydroxypropyl cellulose ophthalmic insert) for dry eye. Additionally, anti-inflammatory drugs can reduce joint and muscle inflammation; and certain drugs can help to either suppress or modulate the overactive immune response.

Let’s hope Venus can recover as fast as her sister and that we can look forward to a 9th grand slam finals between the pair.

Don’t be a Clot when it comes to DVT!

Two weeks ago my orthopedic surgeon made me look him in the he as he repeated his warning “people die from DVT.”

This was his sobering way of saying “no” to my plans to immediately resume business travel after knee surgery. I’m ashamed to say, I ignored his advice, but pleased to report that I survived unscathed.

However, I’m now realizing how close I came to dodging a bullet!  Just last week we learned that super-fit tennis superstar, Serena Williams, was rushed to hospital suffering from a pulmonary embolus and then a day or so later the Vascular Disease Foundation released figures that suggest someone dies from a deep vein thrombosis (DVT) every 5 minutes!

According to the report, between 100,000-180,000 Americans die each year as the result of pulmonary embolism (PE.) The Vascular Disease Foundation is urging Americans, especially women, to learn about the risks of venous blood clots to help prevent these deaths. While men and women are at equal risk, the risk for deep vein thrombosis varies depending on where a woman is in her life-cycle, her hormone levels, and if she has a family history of clotting disorders.

Every year, more people die from preventable blood clots than from breast cancer, AIDS and traffic accidents combined,” said Dr. Samuel Goldhaber, Professor of Medicine at Harvard Medical School and Chairman of the Venous Disease Coalition. “It is so important to raise awareness about DVT and PE because although blood clots are common, few Americans have sufficient knowledge about blood clots and how to prevent them.”

SRxA’s Word on Health is therefore pleased to bring our readers the knowledge that might just save their live.

DVT occurs when a blood clot forms in the deep veins, usually of the pelvis or leg. DVT can be dangerous in two ways. First, DVT can be fatal if a blood clot breaks free from the leg veins and travels through the heart and lodges in the lungs causing a PE. Second, because blood clots can permanently damage the veins, as many as half of DVT survivors can experience long-term leg pain, heaviness and swelling that can progress to difficulty in walking, changes in skin color and leg ulcers. This condition, called post-thrombotic syndrome (PTS) or “chronic venous insufficiency,” can significantly impair quality of life.

Certain individuals may be at greater risk for developing DVT, but it can occur in almost anyone.

Risk factors that are more likely to affect women include pregnancy and the six to eight weeks after giving birth, the use of birth control pills or postmenopausal hormone replacement therapy, cancer and its treatment, and major surgery.

Anyone may be at risk for DVT but the more risk factors you have, the greater your chances are of developing it. Knowing your risk factors gives you the chance to do something about it:

• Hospitalization for a medical illness or any illness
• Recent major surgery (especially orthopedic surgery) or injury or trauma
• Personal history of a clotting disorder or previous DVT
• Increasing age
• Cancer and their treatments
• Family history of DVT
• Extended bed rest
• Obesity
• Smoking
• Prolonged sitting when traveling (longer than 6 to 8 hours)

For more information about DVT, its risk factors, signs and symptoms or to take a free risk assessment quiz, click here.

Chastised and humbled, I for one, will be doing just that!