Nina Rawls, Widow of Singer Lou Rawls, Reveals Her Battle With Sjogren’s Syndrome, Advocates Syndrome Awareness And Applauds Venus Williams' Disclosure

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Two months ago Nina Rawls, widow of legendary singer Lou Rawls, was diagnosed with Sjogren's syndrome, the same misunderstood autoimmune disorder recently disclosed by Venus Williams. Sjogren’s syndrome is the number one misdiagnosed illness in the country, yet it is the second most common autoimmune disease after rheumatoid arthritis. Rawls hopes to promote others to be more pro-active by bringing greater awareness to this illness.

Nina Rawls, widow of legendary singer Lou Rawls, applauds Venus Williams' recent statement regarding her diagnosis of Sjogren’s syndrome, which resulted in her necessity to drop out of the U.S. Open Tennis Tournament. Rawls herself was finally diagnosed with the same misunderstood autoimmune disorder two months ago.

“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,” says Rawls.

“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,” Rawls continues. “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.”

Sjogren’s syndrome is the number one misdiagnosed illness in the country, yet it is the second most common autoimmune disease after rheumatoid arthritis. Right now its diagnosis is found to take approximately 6.5 years from onset of the symptoms. This is because the syndrome’s indicators frequently overlap with or mimic those of other diseases including lupus, rheumatic arthritis, fibromyalgia, chronic fatigue syndrome, multiple sclerosis or even side effects of medication. Rawls has been diagnosed with Secondary Sjogren’s syndrome, meaning it occurs in the presence of another connective tissue autoimmune disease, in her case lupus.

According to the Sjogren Syndrome Foundation another problem with identification is that sometimes certain symptoms can go into remission for a time, however probably the biggest dilemma is that the condition makes its appearance differently in each individual.

The Foundation estimates that as many as 4,000,000 Americans suffer from Sjogren’s syndrome. Nine out of ten are women. The syndrome affects the entire body and the symptoms vary from dry mouth, eyes and/or nose; difficulty talking, chewing or swallowing; joint pain; fatigue; and/or digestive problems just to name a few. Some people suffer mild discomfort, while others like Williams and Rawls experience much more debilitating symptoms that impair their functioning. The condition can develop at any age, though usually after 40, and affects every ethnicity and racial group.

Although there is no one diagnostic test to determine the presence of the syndrome yet, it can be identified by a process of elimination through various blood tests and assessment of the symptoms as a whole. Rheumatologists are often the primary diagnosticians and care givers. The primary medications warranted often take up to 6 months to begin working.

If warning signs are diagnosed early, the good news is that Sjogren syndrome is rarely fatal, however patients must be supervised carefully for more serious complications through time. It is definitely a lifestyle altering condition.

“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,” concludes Rawls. “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.”

For more information, start at Sjogren’s Syndrome Foundation,


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Diane Hadley
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