PHILADELPHIA (CBS) — Tennis Star Venus Williams drops out of the U.S. Open and announced she’s battling a debilitating disease.

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Venus has Sjogren’s Syndrome. It’s an autoimmune disease that strikes as many as one in 70 Americans, mostly women. Many cases go undiagnosed for years. But some local women are trying to change that and raise awareness.

Sipping water over and over again. It’s something most of these local women with the Philadelphia Chapter of the Sjogren’s Syndrome Foundation do, every day. They’re battling Sjogren’s syndrome, the same thing tennis star Venus Williams has.

Dry mouth and dry eyes are two of the most common symptoms.

“The first thing I want to do when I get up is put more drops in,” said Kristal Meagher, who suffers from Sjogren’s syndrome.

“You’re just extremely tired. You can sleep eight or nine hours and you wake so unrefreshed,” said Lisa Faricelli, who suffer from Sjogren’s syndrome.

That’s one of Venus’ problems. According to a statement, the condition affects her energy level and causes fatigue and joint pain.

“It’s very difficult. It changes your life,” said Lisa.

Sjogren’s often goes undiagnosed because it can affect a variety of organs, causing a wide range of symptoms including an increased risk for lymphoma.

There isn’t one single test that always confirms the disease.

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“There’s no cure, and there’s no quick fix. And it usually is chronic for life, but there are some treatments, including some tablets that will help improve the flow of saliva and sometimes the flow of tears,” said Dr. Bevra Hahn, a Rheumatologist.

Now these women are fighting back. They’re hosting a Sips for Sjogren’s fundraising event and silent auction. The goal is to raise money and awareness about the condition, while serving waters from around the world.

“It’s something different because a lot of Sjogren’s patients can’t drink alcohol beverages because of the GERD and the upset stomachs, and so we drink a lot of water,” said Lisa.

“So excited we’re having the sip,” said Maggie Goddard, who suffers from Sjogren’s syndrome.

“I’m just looking forward to having so many people sharing the event and learning about Sjogren’s,” said Kristal.

The fundraiser is on September 18th in Mount Laurel, New Jersey. It costs 20 dollars per person.


Sjogren’s Syndrome Information –
Sjogren’s Syndrome Foundation –
Sips For Sjogren’s Event Information –
Penn Sjogren’s Syndrome Center –

Reported by Stephanie Stahl, CBS 3

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Stephanie Stahl