Diane Hilmo was rather proud of the "natural" color of her face, a little redness on the cheeks that gave her a healthy look. She never imagined it was something to worry about or that it could possibly be the symptom of a chronic skin disorder.
"I had seen pictures of people with rosacea, faces with red rashes," she said. "But I didn't look anything like those pictures, so I ignored it."
What she didn't realize was that other people were noticing her redness enough to comment on it. "My husband later told me that friends sometimes wondered if I had been drinking," she said. "I couldn't believe it."
Hilmo lived with her "natural" color for many years, and then it started getting worse. A descendant of Scandinavian, German and English ancestors, Hilmo has fair skin. However, her facial redness became increasingly pronounced when she was exposed to cold and wind, elements she encounters frequently in Montana. Moreover, when she came inside, the redness would last longer than normal. Then she started breaking out.
During an appointment with a dermatologist to remove a mole, Hilmo's physician told her she had rosacea. "I sat there stunned and speechless," Hilmo said. "But it was finally the beginning of treatment and awareness of a disease I didn't even know I had."
Hilmo started a regimen of oral and topical antibiotics and now uses only the topical medication twice a day. She stays away from spicy food and alcohol, and protects her skin from the elements. She warned her sister who also had redness on her face, and believes her father has the condition as well.
"I am very pleased I was able to help my sister," Hilmo said. "If other people are noticing a redness on your face, let that be a clue and don't ignore getting treatment."